CPD’s suicide problem, the latest on the mayor’s race and more in your Chicago news roundup

Today’s update is a 5-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

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Chicago Fire Department personnel take down the American flag outside the Cook County medical examiner’s office after the procession for a high-ranking Chicago Police officer was found dead in an apparent suicide at the Homan Square facility, on July 28, 2020.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a five-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

— Matt Moore (@MattKenMoore)

This afternoon will be cloudy and unusually warm — with a high near 41 degrees and wind gusts as high as 30 mph. Tonight will be partly cloudy with a low near 25. Tomorrow will be partly sunny with a high near 44.

Top story

Despite troubling rise in suicides, CPD falling short on getting help for officers, inspector general finds

Carrie Steiner still remembers the day in 2009 when a Chicago police officer called and told her he had a gun in his lap and wanted to kill himself.

A Chicago cop herself who got a doctorate in psychology while working on the force, Steiner said she encouraged the officer to seek help from the department’s counseling staff. He had just left them, he told her, and didn’t believe they could understand him. Still, the officer decided not to end his life.

The encounter spurred Steiner to leave the department and open a practice staffed by therapists with backgrounds as first responders. Steiner hears about their long, odd hours of persistent contact with violence. Policy decisions that lead to exhaustion and burnout. The stigma within the department over seeking mental health treatment. The fear of losing their gun and ability to make a living. And she sees a department that, after a troubling rise in suicides in the last four years, still struggles to provide enough qualified counselors.

“To be honest, I think the people in charge really don’t care,” Steiner said. “I think that’s exactly how Chicago police officers feel.”

Her complaints are reflected in a little-publicized report released by the city’s inspector general at the end of last year, weeks before the Chicago Police Department saw another cluster of suicides that brought the total for 2022 to seven. More than a dozen Chicago police officers have died by suicide since 2018.

The inspector general criticized the department for failing to properly train supervisors tasked with identifying officers in need of mental health services. The city’s wellness strategies rely heavily on supervisors and fellow officers identifying officers who need mental health services. But supervisors interviewed by the inspector general’s office said they “lacked key knowledge” to do their job, and many of them acknowledged needing additional training.

The inspector general concluded the department “does not adequately prepare its supervisors to identify members in need of wellness services, and CPD does not ensure that supervisors remain up to date on their supervisory responsibilities relating to officer wellness.”

Matthew Hendrickson has more on the IG’s findings here.

More news you need

A bright one

Chicago Tool Library opens new location, in West Side warehouse

Wilson Wallace’s wish list of tools and household items cost far more than the 24-year-old could afford, but that didn’t stop him from getting everything he wanted.

At a warehouse on the West Side last Wednesday, Wallace picked out a saw, clamps, a straight edge and two sawhorses, as well as a cake tin and stand mixer — which alone would cost several hundred dollars — and made off with all of it, free and legal. That’s how it works at the Chicago Tool Library, where all those items and more, from croquet sets to projectors to tortilla presses, are available for city residents to borrow.

Library membership is open to all Chicago residents on a pay-what-you-can basis. There are no late fees.

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Chicago Tool Library co-founders Jim Benton (left) and Tessa Vierk (right) at the Chicago Tool Library at 4015 W Carroll Ave in West Garfield last week.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

The library, in a warehouse near the Pulaski stop on the CTA’s Green Line, opened Jan. 28. Formerly located on the South Side in Bridgeport, the atypical library moved to the West Garfield Park location, 4015 W. Carroll Ave., to be closer to public transportation. There’s also off-street parking. At 7,200 square feet — six times larger than the old space, which closed in November — the warehouse can accommodate the library’s expanding inventory.

Out of about 3,500 members, roughly 1,500 are active borrowers, but co-founder Tessa Vierk hopes the new location will help expand its reach.

The library is open Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Michael Loria has more on the Chicago Tool Library here.

From the press box

Your daily question☕

What’s one way you comfort friends who are in a time of need?

Send us an email at newsletters@suntimes.com and we might feature your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday we asked you: You’ve been tasked with selecting the official anthem of Chicago. What song will you choose?

Here’s what some of you said...

“Sufjan Stevens’ ‘Chicago.’ Always jam out to this driving down LSD.” — Sean Castner

“‘Chicago’ by Graham Nash. An anti-establishment/anti-war song from 1971. Although the situation has changed, the sentiment remains the same. It looks like no matter who is elected mayor this month, not much will change.” — Howard Moore

“‘Why do you build me up, buttercup baby, just to let me down?’ The absolute theme song of die-hard Chicago sports fans!” — Dave Krasula

“Smashing Pumpkins’ ‘Tonight Tonight.’” — Dan LaBuda

“My Chicago anthem is ‘Lake Shore Drive’ by Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah. It is a quintessential song and the quintessential Chicago road.” — Mark Gast

“‘Crook County’ by Twista.” — Charles Burnes

“‘My Kind of Town’ by Frank Sinatra! What a beautiful way to say, ‘welcome.’ Like open arms to all who come here.” — Vincent DAngelo

“As a former Chicagoan whose heart is still there, I have to go with ‘My Kind of Town’ because the lyrics really do describe the great people and the city’s ability to call us home.” — Amy Jackson

“Wesley Willis’ ‘Rock N Roll McDonalds.’” — Ruben Barba

“‘Mannish Boy’ by Muddy Waters. It’s spirited, hopeful and tough — just like Chicago.” — Craig Barner

“‘Percolator’ by Cajmere.” — Joe Valenzuela

“‘Born in Chicago!’ By the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Because it’s a cool blues song, that sings about what it takes to survive in Chicago!” — Stanley Koskiewicz

“‘Love Sosa’ by Chief Keef.” — Chris Gambla

“‘Take me Back to Chicago’ by the band Chicago. It a good tune to reminisce about Chicago.” — Mike Messina

“The Empire Carpet jingle, obviously.” — Brendan Murphy

Thanks for reading the Chicago Sun-Times Afternoon Edition. Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.

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