CHICAGO – Excessive demands on the Chicago Police Department including the non-stop cancelling of days off are being blamed, in part, for 10 Chicago Police suicides since 2018. Mayoral Aid to Mayor Lori Lightfoot told skeptical alderpersons that the cancellation of leave has been “pared down significantly,” but long-term relief is awaiting arbitration, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Elena Gottreich, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s fourth deputy mayor for public safety, said the mayor’s office “recognizes the urgent need to put guardrails in place to protect the predictability of our officers’ schedules while balancing the need to protect the public in a post-pandemic era.”
“The days off canceled has been pared down significantly. There were obviously an extra amount of days off canceled throughout this last spring and summer period. That has been scaled back,” Gottreich said during a subject matter hearing Thursday on officer wellness.
Urging alderpersons not to “believe everything they see” on social media, she said, “A lot of those reports were incorrect. While people did work several days in a row, that has been scaled back.”
Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th) is so concerned about the mental health of CPD officers, he has introduced an ordinance that would guarantee officers at least 24 hours of consecutive rest for every 60 hours they work. That’s one day off a week to decompress.
O’Shea didn’t buy the so called actions by Lightfoot’s team. He told Gottreich he was “getting emails as we speak from police officer families” poking holes in the deputy mayor’s claim about canceled days off being “pared down significantly.”
“I have one question: Does Superintendent [David] Brown have the ability to, with the stroke of a pen, give our police officers…one day off? If he has that ability, why aren’t we doing that [to] give them a break?” O’Shea said.
Mayoral challenger Ray Lopez (15th) joined O’Shea in poking holes in “what I’m hearing from the department and the administration to what I know is going on on the streets.”
Lopez said he wants to make certain that “if someone needs to take a step back, that they can do it without being harassed by their superiors or their higher-ups as to why they’re taking so much time away when we’re saying here today that their mental health is important.”
The debate nearly turned ugly when Lopez asked whether a shortage of time off would “hurt the mental health” of Chicago police officers.
“If you want anybody to say here that canceling days off causes suicide, that’s categorically untrue. And frankly, it’s a little bit offensive to talk about mental health in that context,” Gottreich said.
Lopez countered, “I did not mention suicide. I just asked about mental health.”
Sensing disaster, Public Safety Committee Chair Chris Taliaferro (29th) ran interference.
“I’m gonna stop this before it even gets started,” he said.
Alexa James, the chief executive of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Chicago, stepped down as CPD’s senior adviser on wellness after just one year, fearing she was adding “very little value.” She has decried the practice of canceling days off as “inhumane.”