Families of officers who committed suicide promote proposed ordinance to allow officers to decline excessive overtime
“We cannot continue with regular days off canceled, we cannot continue with 12-hour shifts,” Ald. Matthew O’Shea said. “They need to rest.”
Family members of Chicago police officers who died by suicide were joined by several alderpersons Wednesday morning outside the Thompson Center to draw attention to a proposed ordinance that would allow officers to decline working excessive hours, which they said contributes to mental health issues in the department.
Ryan Clancy, the brother of Officer Patricia Swank, who died by suicide July 2, said he felt the city “failed” his sister and other officers by not giving them enough time off to use the mental health resources already available to them.
Three CPD officers have died by suicide this month — more than a dozen since 2018. In 2017, a Justice Department report found CPD’s suicide rate was 60% higher than the nationwide average for officers.
“If you’re not sleeping, you don’t even have the frame of mind to know you’re ready to burst,” said Margaret Dougherty, the wife of Sgt. Ed Dougherty, who committed suicide in March.
“I’ve seen the 27 days in a row,” she said of officers going weeks without a break.
The alderpersons — Anthony Napolitano (41st), Silvana Tabares (23rd), Ray Lopez (15th) and Matthew O’Shea (19th) —said the proposed ordinance would give officers more advance notice of their schedules, allow them to decline previously unscheduled hours and would pay double time for any officer who has more than two hours added to a scheduled shift or has to work in a new location.
It would also allow officers to the sue the city and would levy fines against the department for violations — which also would go to the officer — and would require the police department to cite crime statistics or proof of an emergency before canceling days off.
“Not one of them is gonna be out there to protect us because nobody is protecting them,” Napolitano warned.
Lopez, who has announced he is running for mayor, blamed Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration for pushing officers “to the edge” by repeatedly canceling days off.
“Do we give them enough respite to process? On paper it says we do, but we don’t,” Lopez said.
O’Shea complained about ongoing staffing issues in the police department, including officer attrition, that he said were a result of the city’s poor treatment of officers.
“We cannot continue with regular days off canceled, we cannot continue with 12-hour shifts,” O’Shea said. “They need to rest.”
During a news conference that followed Wednesday’s City Council meeting, Lightfoot said she’s deeply concerned about the wellness of Chicago police officers but said she does not believe it is “appropriate for the City Council to be setting personnel rules and policies” for the Chicago Police Department.
“That would be a pretty extraordinary thing. I don’t know that there’s any precedent in history,” Lightfoot said, arguing that every department, including police, “needs the flexibility” to schedule its own personnel.
Julie Troglia — whose husband, Officer Jeff Troglia, died by suicide in 2021 — said the changes were desperately needed.
“The spouses, the families — we know the truth, we live it,” Troglia said. “I’m so tired of hearing the superintendent and mayor telling people to reach out for help. This is the help they need.”