CHICAGO—A Chicago police officer was found dead of an apparent suicide in the morning of July 14, according to Chicago Police Department (CPD).
CPD did not disclose any further information about the incident when reached by The Epoch Times. According to sources that Chicago Tribune spoke with, the officer was 24-year-old Christian Furczon, who was found dead around 7 a.m. near Nathan Hale Elementary School in the Clearing neighborhood on the Southwest Side of Chicago.
According to city records, Furczon had been a police officer with CPD since October 2018.
The spokeswoman for Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office, Natalia Derevyanny, confirmed the death of Furczon with The Epoch Times. The autopsy result will come out in the afternoon of July 15. If Furczon’s death is ruled a suicide, it will be the third suicide committed by CPD officers this year.
Chicago Superintendent David Brown said in a statement sent to The Epoch Times, “The Department experienced the heartbreaking loss of one of our police officers to an apparent suicide … Being a police officer is not an easy job and our officers carry the weight of the world on their shoulders.”
Dr. Carrie Steiner, a police phycologist and certified trauma professional, knows well the weight on officers’ shoulders. Her Chicago suburban office is visited by around 300 police officers every month, one of five being CPD officers who seek her help to cope with mental problems.
A lot of the weight on their shoulders has to do with the critical incidents they see at work daily, Steiner said. Critical incidents are those events that most people would not have in normal life, such as seeing a tortured baby, a murdered victim, or being shot at by violent people at work. They could lead to mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and alcohol addiction.
An average person sees one to five critical incidents in their lifetime, Steiner said. An average police officer at a small to medium police agency sees around 188 critical incidents during their 20 years at work. But for a large metro police department like CPD, the numbers are a lot higher.
“In my first year at the Chicago Police Department, I think I had 200 critical incidents,” Steiner told The Epoch Times. She had served as a police officer at CPD for 13 years before she became a police phycologist.
Some traumas will be harder to overcome than others. For example, Steiner had developed trauma at work after seeing a dead Hispanic 5-year-old in a car crash at work.
“He was the same age as my nephew. Anytime there was an accident, I always thought back to him. Anytime I saw Hispanic family, I thought back to him.” Steiner said. It took her nearly two and half years of therapy to overcome the trauma.
Another burden on officers’ shoulders is the backbreaking working hours—they have been constantly asked to go on 12-hour daily shifts with no days off for almost a year now, Steiner said.
“If you are just working a regular job, you can go home and probably fall asleep pretty quickly. But if you just got off a shift [where] you saw a dead baby, it’s going to be hard to fall asleep.”
So many officers have severe sleep deprivation, making it much harder for them to decompress and recuperate, she said. Most officers she talked with only sleep four to five hours every day.
According to lawyer Gershon Kulek, who helps many Chicago police officers with their divorce proceedings, another source of police stress is the fear of being punished for doing their jobs under the current political and societal environment.
“When an offender fights with police, the police have to use more force to put that person into control. When something goes wrong in that process, the officers could be charged with a crime.
“So there is this extra stress on all officers at work, ‘What if something happens? Am I going to get charged with a crime?’ Many are afraid to do their jobs,” Kulek told The Epoch Times.
When all these mental stresses build up within officers, if they don’t have a way to find release on their own, they wind up releasing on loved ones at home, Kulek said. When that happens, it leads to marital problems or even divorces—another source of mental stress.
Two other Chicago police officers committed suicide earlier this year.
On March 5, police officer Jeffery Troglia, 38, fatally shot himself at home in the Mount Greenwood neighborhood on the Southwest Side of the city.
On March 1, police officer James Daly, 47, fatally shot himself in a locker room inside the district police station on the North Side of the city.
Shortly after the deaths of these two officers, CPD hired Alexa James, CEO of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Chicago, to create a comprehensive officer wellness plan.