Widows of 2 Chicago police officers who died by suicide tell their emotional stories
Stacy Escamilla and Julie Troglia shared their stories with the Chicago Sun-Times, hoping to embolden their colleagues to seek help before they reach the breaking point.
Stacy Escamilla’s husband, Paul, was a Chicago police officer who suffered in stoic silence before taking his own life.
Julie Troglia is the widow of Jeff, who only occasionally “debriefed” with his wife about the daily horrors he endured before descending into the hopelessness that culminated in suicide.
On Friday, both women shared their emotional stories with the Chicago Sun-Times in hope that it might embolden their colleagues to seek help before they reach their breaking point.
Their goal was not simply to beat the drum for extending to surviving spouses the same financial benefits afforded to families of officers killed in the line of duty.
It was to persuade Mayor Lori Lightfoot and police Supt. David Brown to support vilified, demoralized and overworked Chicago police officers who are retiring faster than the city can hire their replacements.
By support, they mean not just words but deeds.
That is, easing restrictions that have tied the hands of Chicago police officers. And stopping the relentless string of 12-hour days and canceled days off that have denied officers the work-life balance they so desperately need.
“They do not feel supported, and they are not supported. If you want to talk about helping them and giving them more mental health support and understanding that it’s such a difficult job, stop canceling their days off when something happens,” Escamilla said.
“Are you actually surprised that they’re retiring in higher numbers than they can hire? Who would want to take this job right now? What mother would encourage her son or daughter to go on a job where, not only is your life at risk but you are vilified in the media? You are hated.”
The hatred got so great that Paul Escamilla put on a jersey over his police uniform when he drove to work “because he was scared somebody would retaliate against him in the car,” Stacy Escamilla said.
“This is what these men and women face every single day. And we have a leader of our city who — I’m not sure if she doesn’t understand that. I’m not sure if she thinks it’ll just get better. But that needs to change. You need to show your support for them.”
Troglia said sleep — or the lack of it by constantly canceling days off — is a “giant part of this.”
“These men and women need more than one or two days to fully rest and to have somewhat of a normal life with their family and friends. So they can de-escalate and de-brief and get prepared to go back to the battle of what they have to do every day,” she said.
“Policies are also a major problem. The foot pursuits and vehicle chasing. If people do something wrong, they know the police can’t chase after them anymore. They’re just gonna keep going. To me, there’s no consequences for breaking the law in this city anymore. ... These criminals are not being prosecuted for what they have done.”
The widows accused the news media of demonizing police officers to the point where their husbands were taunted on the job and refused service at restaurants.
“The media has glorified criminals and vilified first-responders,” Escamilla said.
“There were times when ... the media would report a story, and Paul would say to me, ‘That is just a snippet. They’re not giving the full picture. ’”
Troglia said she and her husband viewed media coverage of police officers as so lopsided, that they couldn’t bear to read, watch or listen to it.
“He came home one night, and he said, ‘Do you know what it’s like to be the most hated person in the city?’ ” Troglia said.
“I said, ‘I’m so sorry. I don’t. But you’re not hated in our neighborhood. You’re not hated in our home. You’re not hated in our family and friends. There’s so many people who love you. But I can’t imagine how you go to work every day.’ ”
Choking back tears, Troglia talked about the information that filtered down from social media to her daughter, who was not at home the night in March 2021 that Jeff Troglia took his own life there.
“She was getting text messages from her friends saying, ‘We’re so sorry.’ Facebook and Ring doorbell had already said there’s something happening at this location. People were realizing it was our house. Someone had to go take her phone and iPad away from her,” Troglia said.
“I tried to say ... that he was injured at work and there was an accident. She immediately knew that I wasn’t telling the truth. To explain to her about an accident that occurred in our house with him and that he didn’t live — it was literally the hardest thing I had to do. She asked, ‘Can we take him to another hospital? Can we take him to another doctor?’ I said, ‘That’s what I was trying to do all night … and there was nothing they could do.’ ”