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Police suicides raise questions about a hidden pandemic

By Clarence Page, Tribune Content Agency on

A suicide in the upper ranks of Chicago’s Police Department amid a surge in the city’s already high homicide rate highlights a painful reality about this summer: We’re dealing with more than one pandemic.

That realization came to mind after Deputy Chief Dion Boyd, 57, was found shot to death last week at the Homan Square police facility on the city’s West Side.

With the ruling by the Cook County medical examiner’s office after an autopsy, the 29-year veteran became at least the 10th Chicago police officer to die by suicide in two years, according to Chicago Tribune reports.

This second pandemic, of police suicides, comes at a time when Chicago and other major cities are experiencing a surge in homicides.

In Chicago, often cited by President Donald Trump as a “Democrat-controlled city” where violence is running “out of control,” killings have mounted so far this year at a higher rate than in 2016, which was the city’s highest toll since 1996.

But homicides are up in other cities too. For example, killings are up 23% in New York and 11.6% in Los Angeles so far this year, according to a Wall Street Journal survey. The same survey found homicides rising at a double-digit rate in most big cities run by Republicans, including Miami; San Diego; Omaha, Neb.; Tulsa, Okla.; and Jacksonville, Fla.

 

Reported police suicides also have been rising in recent years. At least 228 police officers died by suicide in 2019, according to the support group Blue H.E.L.P. That’s more than were killed in the line of duty.

The causes are multiple and personal. Social, psychological and economic pressures from the pandemic lockdown can play a role. But so do political and social pressures, such as backlash to the killing of a Black man, George Floyd, by a white Minneapolis police officer.

Amid the national racial “reckoning” promoted by Black Lives Matter and others, some cities and departments have cut police budgets, in some cases before fully constructing plans or programs to replace or reallocate police functions.

Months of lockdown, rising unemployment and too many guns circulating on the streets put a lot of pressure on cops as well as civilians. Yet, just as many members and supporters of the military were too slow to take post-traumatic stress disorder seriously, too many police officers fear being killed on the job less than they fear the possible stigma attached to seeking mental health treatment.

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(c) 2020 CLARENCE PAGE DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.
 

 

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