After a wave of retirements in the Chicago Police Department, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said that the department needs to get more aggressive on recruiting – especially when it comes to minorities – and hold more frequent entrance exams for recruits.
In a report by the Chicago Sun Times, retirements from the CPD in 2021 is on track to break record highs, already passing the total of 2018.
The police pension board recorded 363 retirements from January to June this year. Another 56 are expected to leave the department in the month of July.
And this isn’t a new trend. Since 2018, officer retirements have been increasing for the past three years. From 2018 to 2020, the total number of retirements per year were 339, 475, and 560 respectively.
And Chicago isn’t the only city experiencing a mass exodus of officers. In New York, 2,500 officers left last year – double the number from 2019.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s response was unremarkable.
She called it a “challenging time, no question about it” for police retention and recruitment in Chicago and across the country, and said the CPD needs to be “creative” to counter the trend.
She went on to mention some new recruiting strategies.
“We’re gonna be reaching out to veterans in the military. The superintendent has plans to have a designated recruiting team, not unlike what the armed services do, as well,” Lightfoot said.
However, Lightfoot stressed that she doesn’t want the CPD to just recruit more officers – she wants to recruit minorities.
“We’ve got to do a better job of making sure that we’re bringing new talent, diverse talent into the pipeline to be Chicago Police,” she said. “We’ve got to do a better job, even in these challenging times when law enforcement is not viewed in the most positive light. It won’t change and it won’t get better if we don’t have diverse people in our neighborhoods who look like the people in the neighborhoods they are sworn to serve and protect.”
She also asked the CPD to increase the testing rate for recruits entering the academy.
“We’ve got to get on a better schedule of giving tests. That was slowed, obviously, as a result of COVID. We have limited capacity at our training academy. But we’ve got to get more people into the pipeline soon,” she added.
Police unions believe the problem of retirements can be found within the local government and the mayor herself.
Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara said the working conditions were “absolutely miserable” for officers, with12-hour shifts, canceled days off, and the continual threat of disciplinary action, which no doubt contributes to officers leaving.
“This department just doesn’t give a damn. You are literally treated like a rented mule and ridden until you can’t go any more. And then, on to the next. Today’s hero, tomorrow’s zero,” said Catanzara.
Speaking on behalf of retiring officers, Catanzara said, “They are not supported. They are in fear that this department has become so retaliatory for every little, even honest mistake. It’s just not worth risking their job, their employment history or, even worse, their freedom.”
Catanzara believes the solution is to overhaul the entire system, starting with city officials and those higher in the ranks of the CPD hierarchy. Simply put, they need new people in positions of power.
“A new mayor, a new superintendent and cleaning house over at 35th and Michigan to get rid of a lot of the upper echelon who just are going along with this policy, including the ones who are sitting silent, letting this go on and not speaking up because they’re trying to protect their gold, bright pension and they don’t want to get dumped because they know how bitter and vindictive this mayor can be,” Catanzara said.