'Unimaginable loss': Chicago police deputy chief dies by apparent suicide in department facility

5 days ago 8

CHICAGO – A newly-promoted Chicago police officer and father of two has died by suicide, city officials said Tuesday – at least the second officer this year to die by suicide in a department that has long struggled with officers taking their own lives.

Deputy Chief of Criminal Networks Dion Boyd, 57, died last night, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.

Several news outlets reported that Boyd was found at the Homan Square police facility on the West Side Tuesday morning. Several news outlets in Chicago reported that Boyd died of a gunshot wound.

In a press conference Tuesday, Police Superintendent David Brown said he was "heartbroken" by Boyd's death, which he referred to as a suicide.

Department spokesperson Anthony Spicuzza said Tuesday afternoon that the incident was being classified as a death investigation.

The Cook County medical examiner said an autopsy was scheduled for Wednesday.

Boyd worked in the Chicago Police Department for more than 30 years, serving the city's South Side as Commander of Area 1 and the 2nd District, along with numerous other roles, Lightfoot said. He had been sworn in as deputy chief of criminal networks on July 15.

"Deputy Chief Boyd was a man who commanded respect, and our deepest condolences go out to his family and friends, particularly his two sons, who are now grieving over this unimaginable loss. Please keep his family and friends in your thoughts and prayers," Brown said in a statement.

In the afternoon press conference, Brown said that "the job of a Chicago police officer is not easy, especially at a time when there is intensified stress."

Officers salute outside the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office as an ambulance passes, containing the body of a Chicago Police officer, Tuesday, July 28, 2020, in Chicago.
Officers salute outside the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office as an ambulance passes, containing the body of a Chicago Police officer, Tuesday, July 28, 2020, in Chicago.

Lightfoot encouraged any officer in need of help to reach out for assistance and said that, over the coming weeks, the city would be taking steps to bolster its support network for first responders.

"To every officer, we want you to know that you are deserving of help and healing, and no one needs to struggle alone," Lightfoot said.

The city's police union offered condolences to Boyd's family in a statement Tuesday.

"Our Condolences go out to the family, friends, and colleagues of Deputy Chief Dion Boyd. Please keep them in your prayers as they navigate their way through this terrible tragedy. Rest In Peace, Sir," the union said.

A 'significant problem' in the Chicago Police Department

Boyd's death by suicide is not the first in recent years in the Chicago Police Department. An off-duty police detective died in February, according to Lightfoot at the time. And last year, at least eight officers died by suicide, according to the Sun-Times.

Suicide is a "significant problem" in the CPD, a 2017 review of the agency by the Department of Justice found.The CPD’s officer suicide rate was more than 60% higher than the national average, the review found.

Police officers, in general, are at particularly high risk of alcohol abuse, depression, suicidal thoughts, posttraumatic stress disorder and other challenges, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Nearly 1 in 4 officers has thoughts of suicide at some point in their life.

Officers salute outside the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office as an ambulance passes, containing the body of a Chicago Police officer, Tuesday, July 28, 2020, in Chicago.
Officers salute outside the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office as an ambulance passes, containing the body of a Chicago Police officer, Tuesday, July 28, 2020, in Chicago.

Moreover, Boyd's death comes amid the heightened mental and emotional stress of the coronavirus pandemic and nationwide protests for racial justice. The toll that these events have taken on Americans’ mental health is profound: Three times as many U.S. adults reported symptoms of serious psychological distress in April compared with two years earlier, according to a study in the medical journal JAMA.

The Federal Communications Commission approved a proposal earlier this month to implement a three-digit suicide prevention hotline, 988. According to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, the nation’s suicide rates are at the highest point since World War II.

Suicide disproportionately affects marginalized groups – Black Americans, Native Americans, rural residents, teens and young adults and LGBTQ people.

If you or someone you know may be struggling with suicidal thoughts, you can call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) any time day or night, or chat online.

Crisis Text Line also provides free, 24/7, confidential support via text message to people in crisis when they dial 741741.

Contributing: Joshua Bote

Officers salute outside the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office as an ambulance passes, containing the body of a Chicago Police officer, Tuesday, July 28, 2020, in Chicago.
Officers salute outside the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office as an ambulance passes, containing the body of a Chicago Police officer, Tuesday, July 28, 2020, in Chicago.
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