Mayor, top cop urge new police officers to get to know their communities, take care of themselves

A shattered ankle. A hand punctured with shrapnel.

That’s how Chicago Police Supt. David Brown began his remarks Tuesday to a graduating class of 80 brand new police officers, giving an update on the injuries to two veteran officers — and a reminder of the perils the new officers will face.

"There has never, ever been a more difficult time to be the police, and yet you are still here answering the call," Brown said, speaking to the graduates — as well as newly promoted officers — at a ceremony at Navy Pier. "There are few higher callings than that of being a public servant."

The event was heavy on tradition, with prayers for the new officers and the drone of bagpipes floating high into the cavernous ballroom. But Brown and Mayor Lori Lightfoot also emphasized a changing police department — one that, they say, better reflects the makeup of the city and one in which officers shouldn’t be afraid to seek help on the bad days.

Brown said the newest class is about one-quarter women and almost three-quarters people of color.

Brown urged the new officers to live balanced lives.

"If you are a cop 24/7, who is the father to your kids and the husband or wife to your spouse?" he said. "Who goes to recitals and practices?"

He told the officers the department will become like a family, but that doesn’t mean they should abandon their old friends.

Police officers "give the worst relationship advice and they drink up all your liquor," repeating one of his favorite jokes about law enforcement.


Lightfoot, too, spoke of the difficult time the graduates had chosen in which to patrol the city’s streets as cops. She urged them to get out of their patrol cars and get to know their communities.

She referred to the "m" word — mental health, and urged graduates to take advantage of department services as they "bear witness to immense trauma."

"That is a tremendous burden to bear," she said. "You simply cannot take care of us, if you’re not diligently taking care of yourselves. We need you at your best."

She also told the graduates to ignore the "noise and lots of wind" that they might encounter about their chosen profession.

"Have no doubt whatsoever that our residents want you and need you and support you," Lightfoot said to applause.