CHICAGO — Three suicides in three weeks. Some are calling it a crisis among officers in the Chicago Police Department made worse by low morale and depleted ranks.
Nora Flisk, the widow of an officer killed in the line of duty more than a decade ago, has a message amid the recent police officer suicides that have made headlines.
Flisk’s husband, Officer Michael Flisk, was killed in 2010. She says the pain has gone on forever. She now only has photos and memories to hold onto.
“We miss him,” she said. “And I wanted to let these officers know that’s a forever choice you’re making. Forever we will be without you. And I don’t want one more family to have to bare that forever.”
Flisk was murdered on the day after Thanksgiving in 2010 while processing a burglary scene. The criminal came back to try to cover his tracks. He was on parole for armed robbery and didn’t want to go back to prison.
Now, Nora Flisk is speaking out to and for officers currently in crisis. She sees it as a perfect storm: Cancelled days off, demonization and a demoralized department.
“I’m mad at the superintendent and the upper echelons of the police department who don’t care enough to acknowledge we’re in a crisis,” she said. “You cannot put a band-aid on a bullet hole.”
This week, police brass reminded officers and the public about free, around-the-clock counseling services available. But they defend canceling officers’ regular days off — saying they need the manpower during historically violent summer weekends.
Police say the average officer loses about 20 of their 104 “regular days off” per year.
They insist they don’t cancel vacations, but some officers say approval for summer vacation days is hard to come by. CPD Supt. David Brown said it’s a tough decision police superintendents have been dealing with for the last 30 years.
Michael Fisk was a Chicago cop for nearly 20 years.
His son followed in his father’s footsteps, but after just three-and-a-half years with CPD, he transferred to a suburban police force.
“You have dedicated officers who are joining this department in hopes of making a difference,” Nora Flisk said. “Instead, they are demoralized and dehumanized by society and by the media and by their own bosses.”
Nora Flisk hopes people in the city she loves, and the department which honors her as a Gold Star Family, will listen. But after sending a personal letter to Chicago’s top cop one month ago, she’s skeptical. In her letter, she asked him to step down.
She said she’s not surprised he didn’t respond.
“I’m just a person, a woman,” she said, “But I’m a wife of a fallen officer and I know what it feels like to not have an officer, a husband, a father anymore.”
She says officers need to know someone cares at the top.
A police spokesperson declined to comment on Flisk’s frustrations. She hopes her voice will remind officers of their value — not just to the city but also to their family and friends.