CHICAGO (CBS) — Hoping to find a way to reduce the number of suicides among police officers, and to increase minority hiring rates at the Police and Fire departments, City Council Public Safety Committee Chairman Chris Taliaferro (29th) plans to hold public hearings about what can be done.
Taliaferro said he’s been trying to do something about the alarming number of Chicago police officers who have died from suicide in recent years, and believes the city can learn from Los Angeles.
The alderman, a former CPD sergeant, said he plans to ask the head of the behavioral science unit for the Los Angeles Police Department to testify about that department’s success in providing mental health care to officers.
“They had gone for a period of almost two years without having a suicide. In addition to that, they average one or two suicides a year, police suicides,” Taliaferro said.
Retired LAPD Commissioner Charlie Beck is serving as Interim Chicago Police Superintendent until Mayor Lori Lightfoot appoints a permanent successor to ousted Supt. Eddie Johnson. Taliaferro said he expects Beck would support the idea of adopting some of LAPD’s mental health practices in Chicago.
“They are completely staffed with police psychologists, whereas in Chicago we are staffed with clinicians, and I think that makes a difference,” he said.
Taliaferro also said the psychologists who work for LAPD are not centrally located, but are stationed at districts to help build relationships with officers.
“I find that to be a very, very good tool to use if we could bring that tool here,” Taliaferro said.
Meantime, Taliaferro also wants to figure out why the Police and Fire departments have not been able to hire a larger number of minorities.
Taliaferro said he recently learned that, of the 484 firefighters and paramedics most recently hired by CFD, only 42 were black.
“I think the city needs to make a very concerted effort investing in diversity on our Police Department and Fire Department,” Taliaferro said.
The alderman said he plans on calling Beck, Fire Commissioner Richard Ford, and Human Resources Commissioner Soo Choi to testify on the hiring process at both departments. He said he also wants to find out where in the hiring process minority applicants seem to be hitting a wall.
“Are we losing candidates at the background investigation? Are we losing them to a psychological test? Are we losing them to polygraph tests? Are we actually recruiting in the right places?” he said.
For example, Taliaferro said while he supports the city’s efforts to visit high schools to recruit future firefighters and police officers, he noted the city requires at least two years of college credit for anyone to apply to be a police officer, so might need to focus recruitment elsewhere.
“Are we recruiting in our best efforts?” he said.