Chicago Police Department Launches Early Intervention System to Spot Cops at Risk for Suicide, Excessive Force and Abuse

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Under fire for its slowness in complying with a federal consent decree, the Chicago Police Department on Tuesday launched two long-awaited programs to identify problem police officers – and get them the help they need. – before behavior problems trigger suicides or incidents of excessive force.

The Cornerstone is a data-driven early intervention system, developed over four years ago by the Crime and Education Lab at the University of Chicago.

Executive Director Roseanna Ander noted that most early intervention systems in other police departments in large cities did not perform as expected, mainly because they were “on the shelf.”

Chicago’s multi-million dollar “Officer Support System” will be different, she said. It was “built from the ground up” specifically for the unique needs of Chicago, with input from focus groups of police officers and supervisors and experts in law enforcement, mental health and welfare. .

The program started Tuesday in the 5th arrondissement. It will be rolled out across the city over the next year. It was funded by private funds, including contributions from billionaire Ken Griffin and local philanthropies.

“We are trying to do something that is incredibly revolutionary and that actually works and that is not a box-checking exercise,” Ander said.

Too often after an incident of police violence, supervisors say “we knew something was going on with this officer,” but a “blind eye” was closed, Ander said.

“A system like this really tries, in a sense, to make sure that supervisors take the time to talk to agents who might be having difficulty. Who might need a little extra training. Who might need mental health services or other things before it gets out of hand, ”she said.

” We saw the high number of suicides in this department. By then, it is too late. After a Laquan McDonald or after the suicide of an officer, it’s too little, too late. In some ways, this is sort of a push mechanism to ensure that supervisors really can’t turn a blind eye. There is an infrastructure in place.

Chicago police gathered outside CPD facilities in Homan Square on the morning of July 28 as news spread that an officer was found shot inside. The death of Deputy Chief Dion Boyd was considered a suicide.
Manny Ramos / Sun-Times

Greg Stoddard, senior research director at the U of C Crime Lab, said “three types of data points” will trigger an intervention: complaints generated internally or filed by private citizens; use of force reports generated when officers use physical force to compel compliance; and minor misconduct that does not require investigation, such as showing up on appeal either late or with an inadequate appearance.

Based on these criteria over the past five years, Stoddard has estimated that 3-5% of agents would be flagged for early intervention.

It would start with an interview with their immediate supervisor. The “documented strategy” would be to “relaunch the chain of command” and could escalate into a conversation with the CPD chaplain or renewed training on the use of force.

The “first conversations” between officers and supervisors in the 5th arrondissement will likely take place “within the next week or two,” Stoddard said.

“It’s not proof that 3-5% of the department are bad people or anything that important. It just means that three to five percent of the department have some element in their administrative behavior that suggests they might be down the wrong path, but not necessarily that they are, ”Stoddard said.

“It warrants a conversation to try to determine if they would need any services and help.”

The second pilot program that implements police reforms that Mayor Lori Lightfoot has promised to deliver within 90 days would use a telehealth app to provide mental health treatment to Chicago police officers around the clock.

This program, still in development, will offer both group therapy and individual therapy to provide the help needed to curb a wave of officer suicides.

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