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Chicago Police Department launches two new programs for officer wellness

One, developed in collaboration with University of Chicago Crime Lab, assists supervisors in supporting members


September 10, 2020
By Staff

On September 1, Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and the Chicago Police Department (CPD) marked the completion of the city’s 90-day police reforms with the launch of two new pilot programs that are designed to ensure all CPD officers have the mental health and wellness supports they need.

The Officer Support System (OSS) is a pilot program that will assist supervisors in proactively supporting CPD members and with the Officer Wellness Telehealth Pilot, the department says it is “making significant strides to improve and expand support for officers coping with the psychological and emotional consequences that come from performing their duties as police officers.”

“Our officers experience a tremendous amount of trauma and stress on the job, and just over the past several years, we’ve lost far too many to suicide. It’s critical every one of our officers have the tools at hand when they need them to help them manage the mental health challenges they face,” Lightfoot said. “While we are immensely proud of the progress we have made in the past 90 days, our work doesn’t stop here. These reforms are only the start of our journey for police reform and accountability, and overall, building a more just and equitable Chicago.”

Launching this fall, the new OSS is a data-driven early intervention system that promotes long-term officer wellness by enabling supervisors to proactively support their officers. Using CPD administrative data to identify officers who may be in need of additional support, the OSS provides a process to intervene with corresponding services.

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Additionally, the system will add a layer of accountability, CPD said, by ensuring supervisors connect officers with the additional options they need.

“A major component of our reform efforts is ensuring that our officers’ mental health and wellness is supported at every level,” said CPD Supt. David O. Brown. “The Officer Support System will provide our frontline supervisors with the tools and resources they need to not only identify officers in need of support, but to connect them with the appropriate support and services, as well.”

In early 2016, CPD partnered with the University of Chicago Crime Lab to develop the OSS. Since then, the Crime Lab’s team of data scientists has developed statistical models to facilitate the early identification of officers who may be in need of additional support. In turn, CPD developed a computer application to automate the OSS, created policy specific to the system, and began training supervisors in the 5th District in preparation for the pilot.

“It is critical to health and safety of all Chicagoans to ensure that we are proactive in providing police officers the supports and training they need and to not wait until a tragedy occurs and wonder what might have been done to prevent it,” said Roseanna Ander, executive director of University of Chicago Crime Lab. “We are grateful to have the chance to work with the Chicago Police Department to help ensure we meet this important obligation in the consent decree but also this important obligation to our residents and our officers.”

The OSS was developed with input from multiple stakeholders. Focus groups, composed of patrol officers, sergeants, lieutenants, and members of specialized units, provided insight into what measures might reflect an officer’s need for additional support, as well as what supports would be most useful.

A National Advisory Committee, composed of experts in police accountability and officer mental health and wellness, met on multiple occasions to provide guidance and feedback to CPD as it developed the OSS from the ground-up.

The department will pilot the OSS throughout fall 2020 in the 5th District, and anticipates a citywide roll out in 2021.

Building on efforts to increase the Department’s capacity for mental health treatment, CPD is also launching the Officer Wellness Telehealth Pilot, which will expand free mental health services to all officers by vetted clinicians who specialize in working with law enforcement officers. It will use an app-based approach to allow convenient 24-hour access for officers.

With crisis intervention training mandated for every officer in the Department, CPD has submitted training materials to the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) for review and, upon approval, recognition of CPD being 100 per cent trained and certified in mental health awareness.