CHICAGO — Veteran officers are fleeing the Chicago Police Department—and taking their experience and know-how with them. And more Chicago cops have retired so far this year than in all of 2018. According to the latest figures from the police pension board, 363 officers have left the Chicago Police Department year to date, and another 56 are expected to retire in July, Chicago Sun-Times reported.
The department of roughly 13,000 sworn officers had 560 retirements in all of 2020, 475 in 2019 and 339 in 2018, indicating an obvious upward trend in retirements, and also experience and knowledge.
“We are on track, I believe, to have one of the highest retirement numbers in the city’s history,” says Ald. Ray Lopez (15th), a frequent critic of Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
Lopez believes CPD recruiting efforts “have come woefully short,” and that Mayor Lightfoot has demoralized officers and scared off potential recruits with anti-police rhetoric.
Moreover, the alderman says a new police reform law makes police officers feel they “have come under attack.” “Many of our officers are not choosing to leave law enforcement as a profession but are retiring early to go to other departments because they don’t feel appreciated and respected in their home city of Chicago,” Lopez explained.
Yet it’s far more than numbers. When a veteran police officer leaves a department, there is a lot of “know-how” walking out the door. Bean counters may simplify the problem, but losing this kind of experience is not easily replaced.
Sadly for CPD, the problem isn’t restricted to veterans; they’re also losing cops who should be hitting their prime years, and city politics plays a big role.
John Catanzara, president of the Chicago police union, says it’s more than just seasoned officers who are departing. He says young cops who haven’t been with the department long enough to qualify for retirement benefits are also leaving, the Sun-Times reported.
Officers are “absolutely miserable,” so they’re moving to other police departments, according to Catanzara.
He says CPD officers are weary and disillusioned. They’re sick of working 12-hour shifts, having days off canceled and being under what he describes as a constant threat of punitive action.
“You are literally treated like a rented mule and ridden until you can’t go any more,” union president John Catanzara said.