CPD launches early in­ter­ven­tion sys­tem four years in the mak­ing

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY FRAN SPIELMAN, CITY HALL RE­PORTER fspiel­man@suntimes.com | @fspiel­man

Un­der fire for its slow com­pli­ance with a fed­eral con­sent de­cree, the Chicago Po­lice De­part­ment on Tues­day launched two long-awaited pro­grams aimed at pin­point­ing prob­lem po­lice of­fi­cers — and get­ting them the help they need — be­fore be­hav­ioral is­sues trig­ger sui­cides or in­ci­dents of ex­ces­sive force.

The corner­stone is a data-driven early in­ter­ven­tion sys­tem more than four years in the mak­ing by the Univer­sity of Chicago Crime and Ed­u­ca­tion Lab.

Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Roseanna An­der noted most early in­ter­ven­tion sys­tems in other big-city po­lice depart­ments have not worked as in­tended, pri­mar­ily be­cause they were “off the shelf.”

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

The pro­gram started Tues­day in the 5th District. It will be rolled out across the city dur­ing the course of next year. It was bankrolled by pri­vate fund­ing, in­clud­ing con­tri­bu­tions from bil­lion­aire Ken Grif­fin and lo­cal phi­lan­thropies.

“We’re try­ing to do some­thing that is in­cred­i­bly ground-break­ing and ac­tu­ally works and is not a box-check­ing ex­er­cise,” An­der said.

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

“A sys­tem like this is re­ally, in some sense, try­ing to make sure that su­per­vi­sors are tak­ing the time to talk to of­fi­cers who might be strug­gling. Who might need a lit­tle ex­tra train­ing. Who might need some men­tal health ser­vices or other things be­fore it es­ca­lates,” she said.

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

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

Based on those cri­te­ria over the last five years, Stod­dard es­ti­mated 3% to 5% of of­fi­cers would be flagged for early in­ter­ven­tion.

It would be­gin with a talk with their im­me­di­ate su­per­vi­sor. The “doc­u­mented strat­egy” would be “kicked up the chain of com­mand” and could es­ca­late to a con­ver­sa­tion with the CPD chap­lain or re­newed train­ing in the use of force.

The “first con­ver­sa­tions” between of­fi­cers and su­per­vi­sors in the 5th District likely will oc­cur “in the next week or two,” Stod­dard said.

“It’s not ev­i­dence that 3%-to-5% of the de­part­ment are bad peo­ple or any­thing that ma­jor. It’s sim­ply say­ing that three-to-five per­cent of the de­part­ment have some things in their ad­min­is­tra­tive be­hav­ior that sug­gest that they might be go­ing down the wrong path, but not nec­es­sar­ily that they are,” Stod­dard said.

“It war­rants a con­ver­sa­tion try­ing to fig­ure out whether they would need ser­vices and help.”

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

That pro­gram, still be­ing de­vel­oped, will of­fer both group- and one-on-one ther­apy to pro­vide the as­sis­tance needed to re­duce a wave of of­fi­cer sui­cides.


Job stress can push po­lice of­fi­cers to com­mit sui­cide or use ex­ces­sive force, but a new Chicago Po­lice De­part­ment ini­tia­tive aims to change that.

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