By Joan Hadac
Editor and Publisher
Southwest Chicago Post
As policemen often are when they are praised, Officer Chuck Trendle was a bit aw-shucks modest as he received an award at a Garfield Ridge health clinic.
“This is pretty cool to get an award for something that comes second nature to me,” he said, moments after an August 28 press conference where he was praised by Access Community Health officials. “It’s like getting an award for riding a bike.”
Access officials gathered at the clinic near 55th and Merrimac to praise Trendle his work in defusing a potentially dangerous situation last winter, when a mentally unstable woman was ranting inside the clinic.
|Officer Chuck Trendle with Access Health executives and staff.
Staff called 911 to request assistance; and although another officer was tasked with responding, Trendle took the call because he is well-versed in de-escalation techniques—in fact, he taught de-escalation to recruits at the police academy.
“When we arrived, she was in the street,” Trendle recalled. “We were able to convince her to come back here for her own well being. I already knew that she was going to be taken to a hospital. I told her, ‘You can come see my doctor.’ I bluffed her a bit; and that’s the way you have to do it. You don’t just say, ‘Hey, you’re coming to the hospital, whether you like it or not’ and throw her in handcuffs.’
“So I de-escalated, got her to the point where she was comfortable and got her to the hospital,” the officer continued. “The entire ride there, she was thanking me; and when I saw her three weeks afterwards, she thanked me again. That’s what the job is all about.”
“With her, unfortunately her meds aren’t working or she’s not
|Officer Trendle speaks with news reporters after the award ceremony.
It helped quite a bit, Trendle said, that he is a longtime Garfield Ridge resident and that the woman in crisis is a more or less neighbor.
“I’ve been dealing with her for a while,” he said. “I live in the community; so not only do I deal with her when I’m on duty, but off duty as well. I have a good rapport with her, for the most part... She is a person who needs a lot of help. The fact that I’ve been able to help her several times, it’s a nice feeling.”
It also helped that Trendle has seen and dealt with mental illness since he was young. He has a brother who “has been in and out of an institution, so I learned early how to talk with a person in crisis.”
In September, Trendle turns 46. In December, he will mark 25 years with CPD. He enjoys serving as a policeman.
“My whole career, I was taught to go in there and get the job done—and then move onto your next job. We’ve always been trained to rush through our jobs…go go go,” he said. “The new officers—those who have been on the job 10 years or less—they’ve been taught to take their time, to think of safety first.”
That’s important, he said, because “with de-escalation, it’s ‘Take your time.’ If it takes eight hours to bring someone down from being in a manic state to a getting them safely to a hospital—take eight hours. A lot of [older police officers] didn’t want to hear that at first; but then finally, we got the supervisors to learn the program, and then the people on the street, the regular patrolmen, were OK with it. Teaching de-escalation is not new at the department, but taking your time to de-escalate is a new theory.”
“I get it. I get not wanting to take your medication. I get the ‘hearing voices’ and all that stuff,” Trendle said. “But [a police officer responding to a crisis involving mental illness] can’t be heavy-handed…you have to treat [mentally ill people] humanely, and the more you can just breathe and relax while you’re in the situation, the easier it is to do.”
Trendle was praised by Garfield Ridge Neighborhood Watch President Al Cacciottolo.
"I have long said that one of the many benefits of living in Garfield Ridge is that so many of our Eighth District Police officers live right here, and that makes them more effective in going after criminals," he said. "But Officer Trendle added a dimension to that. Because the woman in crisis is a neighbor, someone he's familiar with, he was better able to assess her situation and get her the help she needed. We are all grateful for Officer Trendle and others like him."