BY JOY LEPOLA AND PAUL MCGREW, WBFF
BALTIMORE (CIRCA via WBFF) — Breaking a seemingly unwritten silence in policing, departments have started to openly discuss the weight of the badge and the impact it has on the mental health of officers.
Operation Crime and Justice traveled to Chicago, where three police officers had committed suicide in three months. After investigating the Chicago Police Department, the Department of Justice found officers there committed suicide at a rate 60 percent higher than the national average.
“You take the trip to the psychologist and that’s the end of your police career. I cannot do that.”
As a child, Scott Tracz dreamed of policing Chicago streets.
“He wanted to fix the bad city,” his cousin Ark Maciaszek said.
In 2015, Tracz became a Chicago cop at the age of 30. Along with his dream job, Maciaszek says Tracz had a beautiful girlfriend and a new condo.
But a year and a half after he became an officer, Tracz’s life came to a violent end. He wasn’t killed by one of the villains he dreamed of bringing to justice, but by his own hand. He killed himself outside his girlfriend’s house. He was one of 108 police officers nationwide who took their own lives in 2016.
Family members say Tracz’s policing of Chicago’s most violent neighborhoods caused him to change.
Maciaszek said he urged Tracz to seek counseling, but he refused.
“You take the trip to the psychologist and that’s the end of your police career. I cannot do that,” Maciaszek recalled being told by Tracz, still holding on to his dream job, as it damaged his mental health.