Chicago Police staffing lowest in recent history as department reels from ‘generation resignation’

Chicago Police staffing lowest in recent history as department reels from 'generation resignation' 2
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Staffing for Chicago’s embattled police force has reached a new low not seen in more than half a century, department records reveal, as hundreds of officers resign and switch professions amid the city’s pandemic-spurred crime wave.

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According to department data updated March 30, the Chicago Police Department (CPD) currently boasts 11,669 sworn officers, down more than 300 from the beginning of the year when the force reported 11,983 cops – a number that still pales in comparison to the force in recent years. 

At the start of 2021, CPD brass reported it had 12,739 sworn officers on the force – down 560 from the year prior, and 747 from 2019. In the last three decades, that number had not dropped below 12,000.    

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The loss of 1,070 officers since the start of last year, was panned in March by CPD Superintendent David O. Brown as a product of ‘generation resignation’ – a trend that’s emerged among workers during the pandemic.

According to department data updated March 30, the Chicago Police Department (CPD) currently boasts just 11,669 sworn officers, down more than 300 from the beginning of the year when it reported it had 11,983 cops. Over the past three decades, the number had not dropped below 12,000

According to department data updated March 30, the Chicago Police Department (CPD) currently boasts just 11,669 sworn officers, down more than 300 from the beginning of the year when it reported it had 11,983 cops. Over the past three decades, the number had not dropped below 12,000

The term refers to workers in the US quitting their jobs in droves in favor of better wages, benefits, working conditions and hours, to take advantage of a severe worker shortage in the U.S. job market. 

In 2021, police officer departures reached the highest point in decades, when 965 uniformed personnel resigned or retired from the force, joined by a further 100 non-uniformed members who also cut ties with the department, the statistics show.

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The data represents a staggering increase from prior years, with 678 sworn officers leaving the force in 2020, 611 retiring or resigning in 2019, 476 in 2018, and 627 in 2017, according to the department. 

The influx of retirements seen in 2021 are likely linked to Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who that year announced a Covid-19 vaccine mandate for city employees – including cops – and championed an effort to ‘defund the police.’

CPD officials in recent months have stressed a need for recruiting in recent months, going as far as to loosen requirements for prospective uniformed recruits (pictured). The city did not hold an in-person recruiting exam for most of the past two years due to the pandemic

CPD officials in recent months have stressed a need for recruiting in recent months, going as far as to loosen requirements for prospective uniformed recruits (pictured). The city did not hold an in-person recruiting exam for most of the past two years due to the pandemic

The year prior, following protests from activists outraged over the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis cop, the city of Chicago slashed the force’s budget by $59 million. 

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The politician has since backtracked on the Defund the Police movement, pulling an about-face in August after the shooting death of Chicago officer Ella French and astronomical crime numbers spurred by the pandemic. She unveiled a new plan to – ironically – ‘refund the police.’ 

In September, Lightfoot unveiled a $16.7 billion spending plan that lifted the Chicago Police Department’s annual budget to $1.9 billion, up from $1.7 billion in 2021.

The plan relied on federal money to help dig the city out of a deficit that reached new heights during Lightfoot’s time in office, and outlined prospective funding new community programs.

The influx of retirements seen in 2021 are likely also linked to Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who that year announced a Covid-19 vaccine mandate for city employees - including cops - and championed an effort to 'defund the police'

The influx of retirements seen in 2021 are likely also linked to Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who that year announced a Covid-19 vaccine mandate for city employees – including cops – and championed an effort to ‘defund the police’

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At the time, Lightfoot asserted the plan would help the crime-ravaged city – there were 800 homicides in 2021, a level not seen in 25 years – pull through the pandemic and address the prevailing issues of gun violence and crime. 

The plan has so far proved astonishingly ineffective, with the city since experiencing frightening new rates not seen in half a decade.  

Barely four months in, the latest crime statistics show 3,778 complaints of theft already, up 69% from 2,238 for the same time period last year.

Battery, burglary and theft also appear to be on the rise.

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Criminal sexual assault seems to emerge as a growing problem, with 489 complaints this year to date – up from 476 same time last year.

Instances of shootings and murder, meanwhile, historically the city’s most prevailing crimes, appear to be decreasing – albeit marginally – from last year, but are still well above pre-pandemic levels.

As cops resign and retire, the city is experiencing frightening new crime rates not seen in half a decade

As cops resign and retire, the city is experiencing frightening new crime rates not seen in half a decade

So far this year, the city has recorded 525 shooting incidents – down 75 from last year. 

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Similarly, there have been 132 murders in the city in 2022 so far, compared with 139 during the same span of 2021 – a year that saw a historic rise in homicides, especially by gun.

CPD officials in recent months have stressed a need for recruiting, going as far as to loosen requirements for prospective uniformed recruits.

The department decided last month to waive the minimum 60 college credits for certain candidates and offer online testing opportunities, after having nixed the in-person recruiting process for much of the pandemic.

‘The @Chicago_Police Department is now waiving the 60-college credit hour requirement for candidates with experience in: social services, healthcare, education, trade industries, licensed security agencies, detention and corrections, and law enforcement. #ItStartsWithYou,’ Superintendent of Police David Brown, 61, wrote. 

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‘I encourage anyone who is compassionate and cares about public safety in our communities citywide to begin the process of becoming a #ChicagoPolice officer,’ the CPD superintendent added in another tweet.

In-person exams for prospective officers were held from March 17 through March 19.     

Brown blamed the decreases on the lack of an in-person police recruitment test during all of 2020 and the first half of 2021, and also the ‘great resignation.’

Early last month, CPD Superintendent Brown revealed on social media that the department was waiving the minimum 60 college credits for certain candidates and offering online testing opportunities, after having nixed the in-person recruiting process for much of the pandemic

Early last month, CPD Superintendent Brown revealed on social media that the department was waiving the minimum 60 college credits for certain candidates and offering online testing opportunities, after having nixed the in-person recruiting process for much of the pandemic

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‘So, a couple things happened in 2021,’ Brown said. ‘What happened is that we really thought that this would be an ongoing challenge in the impact of what many called, “Generation resignation”…not just policing, but in other professions.’

The head cop asserted that the difficulty to hire employees during the pandemic era ‘impacted us, as well. Not just us here in Chicago, but across the law enforcement profession.’ 

CPD officials also made the department’s hiring push evident on social media, with frequent posts about the effort on a near-daily basis.

Chicago police union president John Catanzara, Jr. – who famously challenged Lightfoot last year to suspend up of half the city’s cops by telling them to ignore her order to submit their vaccination status or face termination – estimated in April that it would take ‘at least five to 10 years to recoup the losses in manpower in police forces’ in Chicago and the US in general.  

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‘I mean, when we’re looking at 7, 800, 900 retirements or departures, resignations and younger officers leaving for other departments in comparison to two or three hundred recruits coming through the door in a given year in the process,’ Catanzara told Fox News. ‘That is not a sustainable number, and it’s gonna make these streets less safe for a long time to come, even if you flip the switch today.’   

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