‘There is no shame in reaching out for help’

The suicide of Deputy Police Chief Dion Boyd is a tragic reminder that Chicago must live up to its commitment to provide officers with the very best mental health services.

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Chicago Police Department Deputy Chief of Criminal Networks Dion Boyd (right) with CPD Supt. David Brown at his promotion ceremony at CPD headquarters on July 15. 

Chicago Police Department Deputy Chief of Criminal Networks Dion Boyd (right) with Supt. David Brown at his promotion ceremony on July 15.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

We want to extend our deepest condolences to the family, friends and fellow officers of Chicago Deputy Police Chief Dion Boyd, who was found dead on Tuesday in an apparent suicide.

The death of a veteran, respected officer brings to mind the well-worn but entirely true cliche: “Being a cop is a hard job.”

We do not presume to know what led Boyd to take his own life, the second Chicago police officer to do so in 2020. Less than two weeks ago, he had been promoted to deputy chief of criminal networks, a unit that investigates gangs and drug trafficking. His loss is devastating for the Chicago Police Department and the city as a whole.

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Boyd was the latest fatality in a terrible trend — police officers taking their own lives. Last year, and also the year before that, four Chicago officers committed suicide. Nationwide, according to a 2018 study, police officers are now far more likely to take their own lives than to die or be killed in the line of duty.

We must take heed — and take action.

The police are exposed daily to the worst of the human condition. The psychological toll can be very real. No wonder, then, that officers run a high risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder.

Officer, my husband just beat me. Officer, my daughter is missing. Officer, the gangs on the block are threatening my son.

Imagine experiencing, up close and personal, the shootings, assaults, robberies, drug overdoses and murders that most of us see only on TV. Imagine taking it home with you every night.

Which is why City Hall must live up to a commitment, as part of a federal consent decree to reform the Chicago Police Department, to dramatically improve mental health services for the city’s 13,000 sworn officers. Doing so is essential, as the Justice Department made clear in a 2017 report.

That same landmark report included the shocking statistic that suicide among police officers in Chicago was 60% higher than in other cities.

What else might we do as a city and country? We might work a little harder to recognize, to begin with, that while policing practices are in generally great need of reform, every individual cop is not the enemy. How sad that we feel the need to even say that.

Building trust between the police and every community begins with both sides recognizing the other’s humanity.

We can do no better here than to end with the words of Supt. David Brown, who spoke Wednesday about Boyd’s suicide.

“There is no shame in reaching out for help,” Brown said. “Please, officers, please, stay humble, stay human, stay safe and stay well.”

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