CHICAGO — A 17-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department apparently took his own life Monday night, becoming the force’s fourth officer this year to die by suicide, police said.
The name of the 40-year-old officer, who was assigned to Chicago’s north side as aide to District Commander Michelle Rubino, was to be released by the medical examiner later Tuesday, police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said in a statement. The officer was off duty at the time of his death.
“He was very well liked, a friend to many on the department,” the statement said. “This was very unexpected and is hitting the District exceptionally hard.”
The Cook County forest preserve district is conducting the death investigation, Guglielmi said. Preliminary review indicates an apparent suicide.
“Debilitating news for the #ChicagoPolice family as we come to grips with the unthinkable loss of a dedicated police officer to suicide tonight,” Guglielmi tweeted Monday night. “Our deepest condolences to his family & prayers for his extended police family in the 24th District.”
Patrols in the Rogers Park neighborhood will not be affected if colleagues of the officer are overcome with grief, Guglielmi said. Grief counselors were sent Monday night to the 24th District.
‘Stigma of seeking mental health treatment’
The department, which has one of the highest rates of police officer suicide in the nation, last year launched a communications campaigned entitled, “You Are Not Alone CPD,” Guglielmi said in the statement.
The department also offers a peer support network involving “officers who have gone through similar struggles with depression or challenges with the job,” the statement said.
The New York Police Department has also been shaken by a spate of officer suicides. Of nine NYPD officer suicides in 2019, seven have happened since June, with department brass looking for ways to tell the rank and file that it’s OK to ask for help.
Over the past five years, the NYPD has averaged between four and five suicides a year, Police Commissioner James O’Neill said in June at a news conference called after the department surpassed its annual average.
Police officers and firefighters are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty, according to a 2018 study by the Ruderman Family Foundation, a Boston-based nonprofit that advocates for social justice.
In 2017, there were at least 140 police officer suicides and 103 firefighter suicides, compared with 129 police officers and 93 firefighters who died in the line of duty, the study found.
The study found that first responders failed to seek help because of the stigma of seeking mental health treatment in a profession that prioritizes bravery and toughness. It also found of the 18,000 law enforcement agencies across the country, “approximately 3-5% have suicide prevention training programs.”