On Tuesday, September 9th, ONE Northside Mental Health Justice Leaders held a press conference outside of Chicago Police Headquarters. Almost 30 individuals joined the team as they called on the Chicago Police Department to increase their training goals for Crisis Intervention Training as well as to report on progress toward those goals to the Chicago City Council’s Public Safety Committee.
Elizabeth Rahuba began the press conference by sharing some background info on the Crisis Intervention Training (CIT), a 40-hour voluntary training course for police officers to learn the signs and symptoms of mental health crisis as well as learning deescalation techniques. Rahuba highlighted the importance of people living with mental illness being able to access treatment rather than being locked up in Cook County Jail. Rahuba stated that “there are approximately 22,000 mental health crisis calls…which averages out to be about 60 to 65 mental health crisis calls a day which we know cannot be covered with the current staffing numbers.”
Becky Brasfield also joined with the team to share about her experience of being arrested while in mental health crisis. Brasfield began her powerful testimony by highlight how the arrest has drastically changed her life. Brasfield shared that “my life story goes from receiving numerous scholarships to attend the prestigious U/Chicago Laboratory Schools, a school where the president’s children were sent, getting my Bachelor’s degree in psychology, a Master’s degree in Sociology, publishing in peer reviewed academic journals and having an incredibly bright future ahead of me to being thrown in cook county jail for five months, having a class 4 felony conviction on my record and being sentenced to 24 months of mental health probation.”
We know that Becky’s story is not unique. Currently officers are trained with the main goal being to disarm and arrest when someone is acting out. We do not fault the individual officers, but call on the decision makers to create a Department that does not criminalize mental illness. Pastor Fred Kinsey of Unity Lutheran Church in Edgewater ended the press conference by demanding an increase to the number of officers trained annually in CIT and asking that the Department celebrate that work but being transparent and accountable on progress. Kinsey stated that “words behind closed doors are not enough. Promises are only real if they are transparent and reported in public. We, are the public – and we demand accountability for CIT numbers from Chief Gulliford!” The group then delivered a letter to Chief Gulliford’s boss, Superintendent McCarthy, asking for his support and cooperation with the campaign.
For more information on how to get involved with the Mental Health Justice Team, contact Ellen Glover at 773-769-3232 x12 or firstname.lastname@example.org
More photos available HERE.
Media Coverage of the Press Conference:
Raising Awareness on How Police Treat People with Mental Illness from The Morning Shift on WBEZ
Chicago Activist Press CPD to End ‘Criminalization’ of the Mentally Ill from Progress Illinois
From High Hopes to Broken Dreams: A Plea for Police Training in Mental Health from Social Justice News Nexus. Also found on The Chicago Bureau.
Mental Health Advocates Demand Expansion of Police Sensitivity Training from The Gate News
Mental Health Advocates Push Police for More Crisis Intervention Training from DNA Info Chicago