Days after receiving a massive promotion, Chicago Police Deputy Chief Dion Boyd, a 30-year veteran of the force, apparently committed suicide. Tragically discovered dead in his office by co-workers Tuesday morning, the Chicago Police Department recently promoted the 57-year-old father of two sons to deputy chief of the Chicago Police Department’s criminal networks group on July 15th.
In a statement, Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown said, “I am extremely saddened to share with you today the loss of a respected member of our command staff to suicide. We are shocked, saddened at the loss, and it’s deeply felt by me and the many colleagues and friends with whom Deputy Chief Dion Boyd worked and mentored throughout his career.”
Brown continued, “Dion left people he loved here, and colleagues who loved him as well. Please, officers, please, stay humble, stay human, stay safe, stay well.
“Deputy Chief Boyd called the Chicago Police Department his home for more than 30 years, proudly serving the South Side as Commander of Area 1 and the 2nd District, along with numerous other roles,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot in a Tuesday tweet “This devastating loss will not only be felt at every level of this Department, but in the countless communities and homes Deputy Chief Boyd touched during his decades-long service to our city,” she added.
Though his motives remain unknown, whether directly related to recent anti-police movements or not, Boyd’s passing must serve as a reminder of the immense pressure upon our heroes in the police force and sacrifices made to help protect the public. Beyond the recent surge of anti-police rhetoric, unjustly spurned by the heinous acts of a handful of individuals extrapolated to the system itself, the intrinsic and enormous stress upon the police force cannot be allowed to go without the highest of admiration.
“The morale is bad right now,” Atlanta Keisha Lance Mayor Bottoms described of police forces, according to WXIA-TV. “My understanding is that it’s really bad, it’s understandably so.”
“It’s bad across the country because of what’s happening across the country and the scrutiny and focus and a lot of the anger and frustration that’s directed at our police department,” she added. “And I don’t think Atlanta is any different.”
Within the Chicago Police Department particularly, the U.S. Justice Department reported a 60% uptick in suicides compared to the national average of 18.1 officers per 100,000. Nationally, police officers suffer significantly higher rates of alcohol abuse, depression, suicidal thoughts, posttraumatic stress disorder, and numerous other mental health challenges, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, than the general population. Nearly 1 in 4 police officers has suicidal thoughts at some point in their lives. In 2017, more police died from suicide than in the line of duty, 140 suicides compared to 93 deaths in the line of duty.
Despite campaigns to defund police and dramatic demonstrations occurring nationally smearing police forces as institutionally racist, we must remember the humanity of those who serve in law enforcement. To paint officers as soulless drones who willingly capitulated to an evil and racist system ignores the immeasurable nobility and honor of serving in law enforcement. These are men and women who, without hesitation, risk their lives and stand on the front lines to hold back the chaos and atrocities of rampant crime, especially in large urban areas.
Yet we repay them in blind accusations of racism and violent harassment, only to shout police brutality once they defend themselves. What a backward society in which we revile those who defend the innocent and deify those threatening peace and civility. During a riot in St.Louis, looters wickedly shot retired Police Captain David Dorn, and not a whisper of sympathy came from protesters.
But one of the most poignant symbols of the modern racial struggle and apparently exemplary of the institutional racism in the killing of Michael Brown has been twisted beyond all recognition to fit into the narrative. Even though the President Barack Obama era Department of Justice concluded “there is no credible evidence that (Officer) Wilson willfully shot Brown as he was attempting to surrender or was otherwise not posing a threat” and numerous witnesses, reluctant to cut across the prevailing “murder” narrative with the truth for fear of backlash, with corroborating evidence reported watching Brown physically attack Wilson and attempting to steal his weapon, Brown remains a martyr, a powerful yet false illustration of the deep injustice that simply doesn’t exist.
If we cease appreciating our heroes in law enforcement, we lose them, both as protectors of the public and as, on the most basic and tragic level, humans. In Atlanta, Police Chief Erika Shields resigned after nearly four years in the police force, along with at least eight other officers amid the national protests in early June. In South Florida, ten officers resigned from their city’s SWAT unit due to feeling “restrained by the politicization of our tactics.” In Buffalo, New York, nearly sixty officers resigned in response to the suspension of two police officers who pushed an elderly protester, eventually pleading not guilty to charges of assault.
But, as Boyd bitterly reminds us, we ultimately risk losing the person themselves.