The killing of Chicago Police Officer Ella French has left the city’s police community reeling, prompting many to call for better leadership and structural department changes that officers say could have prevented her death.
Hundreds have gathered for prayer vigils around the city in recent days to remember the slain officer. At a prayer vigil for French held at the 16th district police station in Jefferson Park Wednesday, at least 1,000 people gathered to pay their respects and honor her life, as well as show support for those on the force.
Officers, not permitted to speak to the media on the record, spoke to the Chicago community news source Block Club anonymously about how they are coping with French’s killing.
One CPD officer said police have faced more hostility than ever in recent years, and believes the anti-police sentiment ultimately contributed to French's death.
“Everybody is scared to do their job because they feel unsupported by the department and unsupported by the city,” he said.
But he also blamed the department for putting French on a team in a violent neighborhood with little experience and failing to properly support officers who “are asked to sacrifice everything.”
A female officer who works on the North Side and attended Wednesday’s vigil said she wants politicians and the media to stop vilifying officers. She said French’s death reinforces how officers have been feeling in recent years: like nobody cares about them.
One officer said he feels Lightfoot and Supt. David Brown seem primarily focused on telling officers what they’re doing wrong, instead of listening to them about what they need.
Officers said better training and more resources for mental health are key to helping them feel supported. They’d also like to see legislation that would impose tougher sentences on repeat offenders.