Thresholds Statement on Department of Justice Investigation of the Chicago Police Department

Chicago, IL – Recently, United States Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the findings of a 13-month Department of Justice civil rights investigation of the Chicago Police Department (CPD). The investigation concluded that CPD’s training for use of force and its accountability practices are inadequate and violate the constitutional rights of citizens.

Thresholds clients, like many people who are living with serious mental illnesses, can experience mental health or substance use crises that sometimes involve police, on whom we too often rely to play a role in the mental health system that is best performed by a clinician or social worker. We know that those in crisis do not always receive fair treatment and access to the help they need. We agree that there is urgent need for the CPD to undergo broad reform and implement training that equips officers and dispatchers to better handle these crises. Our clinical staff are always more comfortable when a Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) officer is the responder for the calls we need to make. We have seen time and time again what a difference is made for clients when they get this care. Trauma is reduced, the officers work collaboratively with our team, and the individual is better connected to future treatment. This is the model of CIT – community partnership, advocacy, and training.

We support efforts to create a stand-alone mental health unit within the CPD to support the growth and expansion of CIT training, among other possibilities. We spent the last year participating in the work of the Mayor’s Mental Health Steering committee, and we will continue to support this work to promote foundational change in the way behavioral health concerns are handled.

Thresholds wants to support law enforcement efforts by calling for models that reduce utilization of the police for behavioral health crises while providing them greater tools to perform their duties. To this end, we call on the City to invest in co-responder and post-response efforts that have had success in other major cities like Los Angeles and Denver. These innovative programs partner police with trained mental health responders, allowing both parties to do the jobs they are best trained to do. Co-responder models allow police hours of additional time to do patrol and other police work, save lives, and reduce frequency of the crisis calls. The CPD can also invest in a dedicated Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) team to target high-frequency users of police intervention to help stabilize symptoms. ACT is an evidence-based treatment modality designed to serve individuals with the most significant mental health needs. We are dedicated to exploring these models, and we call on the CPD to prioritize them.

But most importantly, we need greater investment in our community treatment safety net. We should not rely on the police to staff our City’s mental health and substance use response. We need the City and state to invest in community treatment services. We need to continue to build connections between providers and law enforcement, hospitals and emergency rooms, and the justice system.

We know what works – we need continued investment and effort from our City government and the CPD to get it done. Thresholds remains ready to keep partnering with them to ensure that everyone gets the mental health and substance use treatment they need and deserve.

Media Contact: Emily Moen, Director of Public Relations and Marketing, 773-572-5172

Skip to toolbar