Following recent high-profile incidents between Chicago Police Officers and people suffering from mental illness, Finance Chairman Ed Burke (14) wants to establish a special unit within the police department that would help train and support officers to be better equipped in handling these types of situations.

At yesterday’s Finance Committee, Chairman Burke directly introduced an ordinance that would establish a “Mental Health Critical Response Unit.” According to the ordinance, the unit “shall be responsible for mental health crisis response functions, Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training, community outreach and engagement, cross-agency coordination, and data collection.”

The plan was directly pulled from the recent Police Accountability Task Force recommendations released in April, which called for the creation of a unit within CPD to be “responsible for mental health crisis response functions, training, support, community outreach and engagement, cross-agency coordination and data collection.”

Ald. Willie Cochran (20), a former police officer, co-sponsored the ordinance. “The task force has introduced it. We have already known it. And I think that it is a responsible response…to make this mental health critical response unit a reality and take the first steps in addressing this situation that we know is so critical in our community.”

The unit would consist of at least eight full-time police officers, two mental health service providers, the police department’s critical response unit, and a full-time data analyst “who shall evaluate all aspects of crisis intervention training, personnel needs, community feedback, mental health-related dispatched calls for service from [OEMC]”.

In addition to having the authority to develop a crisis response system for responding to repeat mental health-related incidents, the unit would be required to transmit a daily assignment roster to OEMC identifying officers who are CIT trained.

To make sure the unit doesn’t follow the same fate as previous, underutilized CIT programs within CPD, the ordinance would require that the police superintendent provide quarterly progress reports to the City Council detailing the number of CIT trained officers and the district they serve, which districts have the highest concentration of mental-health related calls, and the number of CIT-trained officers who responded to those calls.

Since Chairman Burke directly introduced the ordinance into committee, there was no action taken.

Other Police Related Items Passed By Finance Committee Yesterday

  • IPRA Officials Required To Attend Finance Committee Meetings – Prior to Mayor Emanuel’s announcement that he would be dissolving the Independent Police Review Authority, the agency that handles cases of police misconduct, Chairman Burke drafted and introduced an ordinance that would require that IPRA officials attend any Finance Committee meeting that has a legal settlement against a police officer on the agenda.

    He introduced the ordinance so that IPRA could be present to directly answer questions about pending investigations of officers involved in the settlements. In past meetings, those inquiries had to be submitted through the chair, because the city’s Law Department didn’t have specifics. At yesterday’s meeting, Ald. Jason Ervin (28) asked if the ordinance would be amended to mandate that officials with whatever agency replaces IPRA be present at future meetings. Burke said that “if and when there is a successor agency” the ordinance could be amended. The ordinance passed by voice vote.

  • Another police-related ordinance on the Finance agenda from Chairman Burke would require the Police Superintendent to refer all cases involving the death of a suspect in custody to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. The ordinance would codify into law what the police directive already mandates, Burke said yesterday.

    According to the ordinance, an “officer involved-death” includes any death that results directly from “an action or directly from an intentional omission, including unreasonable delay involving a person in custody or intentional failure to seek medical attention when the need for treatment is apparent.” Any police-involved death that occurs while an officer is off duty would fall under this rule, as well, if that officer was “performing activities that are within the scope of his or her law enforcement duties.” The ordinance would take effect upon passage.