During his early days on the force, 30-year-old, rookie Chicago police officer, Scott Tracz, was described by colleagues as an "upbeat" cop who had always dreamed of becoming a police officer to help people in his city. That is, until he sat in a black sports car outside his girlfriend's suburban house late last year, put his gun to his head and took his own life. Per Reuters:
Tracz had long dreamed of becoming a police officer to help others. But working in the violence-stricken Chicago Lawn district, he came face to face with the city's violent crime. The area accounted for 58 of the city's more than 760 murders last year, as well as 228 shootings.
"He would say, 'You can never imagine what the human race is capable of doing,' then he would just put his head down," said his cousin Maciaszek, 46.
Unfortunately, stories just like the one of Scott Tracz are becoming all too common on the Chicago police force as officers deal with the psychological side effects of having to go to work every single day in Chicago's "war zone."
"Chicago is a war zone," said Alexa James, the executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness-Chicago. "They (officers) are seeing the worst day of everybody’s life every day."
"Suicide is killing officers, alcohol is killing officers, at a far greater rate than ambushes, but there is not the same sense of urgency around this issue," said Christy Lopez, a former Justice Department official who led the Chicago federal probe.
Chicago police's suicide rate was 29.4 per 100,000 department members between 2013 and 2015, the report said, citing police union figures. The department disagreed in the report, putting the rate at 22.7 suicides per 100,000 members. Both estimates were higher than the national average of 18.1 law enforcement suicides per 100,000.
As we've noted many times in the past, Chicago's homicide rate in 2016 soared to levels not seen since the mid-90s when gang wars plagued the streets of cities all around the nation (charts via HeyJackAss!).
And, things aren't getting any better so far in 2017...
...particularly in the city's South and West side neighborhoods.
To add insult to injury, because of Chicago's onerous gun laws that permanently prohibit anyone who has been involuntarily committed for in-patient mental health treatment from carrying a gun, a requirement for cops, the folks working for the Chicago PD generally refuse mental health services out of fear of losing their job.
Some officers believe that seeking counseling will result in the loss of their Firearm Owner Identification Card, a requirement to carry a firearm under state law, according to current and former officers, as well as health officials. That view is mistaken, say Justice Department officials.
Still, "If someone thinks I have talked to EAP they think I’m unstable, so I’m not going to call," said one veteran officer, who asked not to be identified.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said in February the department's past approach to mental health was wrong. In a report issued in March, the department said it would review mental wellness support services.
"Law enforcement historically has been seen as a very macho profession," Johnson said at a public forum about police reform. "To say you needed help was seen as a sign of weakness and we were wrong for looking at it that way, we were simply wrong."
But hey, at least the Obama administration sought to help Chicago Police officers by dropping a DOJ study, one week prior to departing the White House, effectively labeling their department as nothing more than a bunch of racist, hate-mongering bullies who routinely resort to the use of "deadly force" in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution.