CHICAGO—A Chicago police officer was found dead due to an apparent suicide on the morning of July 14, according to the Chicago Police Department (CPD).
The officer, 24-year-old Christian Furczon, was found dead at 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 the CPD since October 2018.
Autopsy results released on July 15 confirmed the cause of death as suicide. Furczon was the third CPD officer to take his own life this year.
“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,” Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown said in a statement sent to The Epoch Times.
Dr. Carrie Steiner, a police psychologist 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 out of five being CPD officers who seek her help to cope with mental health concerns.
A lot of that weight has to do with the critical incidents they see at work daily, Steiner said. Critical incidents are those situations that most people wouldn’t encounter in their daily lives, such as seeing a tortured baby or murder victim, or being shot at by violent people at work. The weight of these experiences can easily 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 such as 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 served as a police officer at CPD for 13 years before becoming a police psychologist.
Some traumas will be harder to overcome than others. Steiner had developed trauma while on duty after seeing a dead Hispanic 5-year-old in a car crash.
“He was the same age as my nephew. Anytime there was an accident, I always thought back to him. Anytime I saw a Hispanic family, I thought back to him.” Steiner said.
It took her nearly 2 1/2 years of therapy to overcome the trauma.
Another burden on officers’ shoulders is the backbreaking working hours; for almost a year now, they have been constantly asked to work 12-hour shifts with no days off, 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,” she said.
Many officers suffer from severe sleep deprivation, making it much harder for them to decompress and recuperate, she said. Most officers she speaks with only sleep four to five hours each night.
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,” Kulek told The Epoch Times.
“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.”
When all this mental stress builds up within officers, if they don’t have a way to find release on their own, they may wind up releasing it on loved ones at home, Kulek said. When that happens, it often leads to marital problems or even divorce—another source of mental stress.
Two other Chicago police officers committed suicide earlier this year.
On March 1, Officer James Daly, 47, fatally shot himself in a locker room inside his district police station on the North Side of the city.
On March 5, Officer Jeffery Troglia, 38, fatally shot himself at his home in the Mount Greenwood neighborhood on the Southwest Side of the city.
Following the officers’ deaths, CPD hired a senior adviser on wellness, National Alliance on Mental Illness Chicago CEO Alexa James, to create a comprehensive officer wellness plan.