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One City's Police Suicide Rate Raises Alarms

Chicago just saw its fifth police suicide in 6 months
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 5, 2019 1:14 PM CST

(Newser) – Facing high suicide rates, Chicago police have decided to make a change. The fifth Chicago police suicide over the past six months—another self-inflicted gunshot wound on Tuesday—only reinforced the need for officers to have access to better psychological counseling and support, NBC News reports. "Police officers think, 'I'm the person that people go to when they're having issues, so how am I supposed to call somebody else for myself?'" says Carrie Steiner, a clinical psychologist and former officer who owns the First Responders Wellness Center. "But they need to understand that it's OK to get help for themselves, too." Along those lines, the city says it will hire six extra counselors for police (to make 11 in all), enlarge a peer support program, and bring more clergy into the chaplains' ministry.

The move follows years of awareness that Chicago police face a tough ride. A 2017 Department of Justice report found Chicago officers were 60% more likely to commit suicide than other cities' police, at a time when the force had only three counselors for a force of roughly 13,500 (Dallas has the same number for a staff of about 3,500). Add to that Chicago's high violence rates, negative police portrayals in the media, and the recent conviction of a city cop for killing black teenager Laquan McDonald, and Steiner says you have low morale. Then come the suicides: "No one knows with certainty why someone makes such a tragic decision," said the Fraternal Order of Police after Chicago Officer Dane Anthony Smith, 36, killed himself Tuesday, per CBS News Chicago. "We are all left with a gaping hole in our lives." (Read more police stories.)

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