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Chicago likely to lose 1,500+ cops by Jan. amid mass officer exodus, plummeting applications

Officers stand near crime scene tape. (Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune/TNS)
October 13, 2021

The Chicago Police Department is expecting to lose more than 1,500 officers by the first of the year in a staffing crisis sparked by officers retiring and relocating in record numbers. Additionally, the open positions are becoming more difficult to fill as applications continue to plummet.

According to CBS Chicago on Monday, Ald. Anthony Beale said the large number of retirements and officers moving to other stations are just the tip of the iceberg.

“People don’t want to be the police,” Beale said. “The police don’t want to be the police.”

When Beale asked city Budget Director Susie Park what the anticipated number of sworn officer vacancies would be on Jan. 1, 2022, Park said the number would be just over 900. Her estimate did not include unexpected resignations or retirements.

As a result, Beale said the number is significantly higher.

“People fail to realize last year we wiped out 614 vacancies out of last year’s budget, and when we talk about that we’re down 1,000 officers, we’re actually down 1,600 officers,” Beale said.

When CBS 2 asked one ex-CPD cop why he decided to leave the city’s department, the officer said “you have to take care of yourself first.”

“I was frustrated with the work schedule, and being put in unexpected situations. Also, I think Chicago police officers are underpaid for what they do,” he added, requesting to remain anonymous.

The cop said he knows at least 10 more officers who have made the same move over the last year, citing forced overtime and canceled days off, as well as dwindling ranks, as key factors in the decision to leave.  

“I knew I was just going to be put in worse working situations and conditions from there on, because they were going to be short-staffed; and the department and the people who run it, the politicians, they thought that that was an okay situation for officers to be in,” the former CPD officer said.

Filling the vacancies has also be exceedingly difficult, according to Police Supt. David Brown, who said during a budget hearing this week that the department only had around 5,000 applicants to the police academy this year – a sharp drop from roughly 30,000 in years past.

According to Beale, the academy currently has less than 100 cadets.

“By the time you get people to take the test, pass the test, go through the background check, and get in the academy, by then we’re into 2023 going into 2024,” Beale said.

The former Chicago Police Department officer who spoke with CBS said the ongoing staffing issues strengthen his decision to relocate to a smaller department.

“I enjoy having a consistent schedule. I work longer shifts now to have more days off, and it utilizes officers for better manpower to run a department, which I think is smarter, and it benefits officers more,” he said.