Sunday, July 3, 2022

It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way


By Joan Hadac
Editor and Publisher
Southwest Chicago Post

Today I begin on a note of profound sadness.

One of our own, a young police officer living in Garfield Ridge, took her own life recently.

News began to spread quickly, quietly and in hushed tones on Saturday morning, July 2—coincidentally among many at the Garfield Ridge Stars & Stripes 5K, founded and led by a Chicago Police officer and held this year in honor of CPD Commander Paul Bauer, who lost his life in the line of duty back in 2018.

The suicide of a police officer hits especially hard in Garfield Ridge and Clearing, but not just because our neighborhoods are home to so many law enforcement officers. It’s because the large majority of us—despite not being police officers and never having worn the uniform—have an appreciation of our men and women in blue. 

We get it, at least to the extent we can.

We are aware of the grinding, non-stop stress police officers live under, especially under a mayor who has spent three years demonizing them.

That’s why when you drive up and down many blocks in Garfield Ridge and Clearing, you’ll see “Back the Blue” lawn signs, “Our Police Are Gr8” window cards and blue lights shining from porches.

That’s why you’ll see good-hearted people like Tracie Ellis and Jennifer New hosting—largely at their own expense but with significant assistance from big-hearted business leaders like Geno Randazzo—what some call Blue BBQs: barbecues held in Tracie’s backyard, where she, Jennifer and several others feed on-duty officers, all at no charge.

That’s why you’ll see police officers routinely applauded and sometimes even given standing ovations at Garfield Ridge Neighborhood Watch meetings—something you certainly won’t see in just about any other neighborhood in the city.

That’s why our elected officials, including and perhaps especially 23rd Ward Ald. Silvana Tabares, do all they can to back the blue, both in word and deed.

The week before the Garfield Ridge police officer—our police officer—ended her own life, Tabares went public with a demand that the Lightfoot Administration stop canceling officers’ regular days off for non-emergency events.

The headline of the story about it was simple: Days off are days off, Tabares says. The alderman’s reasoning was equally simple: people in high-stress jobs, like police officers, must have time away from the daily grind. Time to decompress, to exhale, to be with their families.

Tabares’ concerns were met with silent indifference by our mayor and her City Council allies. Here on the Southwest Side, there were even a few who took to social media to criticize her stance—shills that they are for other politicians. I wonder where those several people are today, and I wonder what, if anything, they’ve ever done to support our police.

Being a police officer, especially in a big city, will always be a stressful job. Therefore, sadly, there will always be officers who snap under the pressure, who mistakenly but understandably see no way out other than to take their own lives.

But this current climate, where police officers who remain on the job are increasingly troubled by the ongoing exodus (via retirement and resignation) of their brothers and sisters in blue? This current climate, in which the CPD suicide rate is perhaps double the national average for law enforcement in general?

It doesn’t have to be this way.

I’ve heard it said that police officers confront danger so the rest of us don’t have to. If that’s true—and it most certainly is—then the least the rest of us can do is take a good, long look in the mirror and ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to support our police each and every day.

And supporting our police means demanding that others do the same, especially our elected officials. We need to look them in the eyes and tell them, in the clearest terms possible, that if they don’t give police their full support, we’ll head to the polls en masse and fire them, come election time.

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