1,190 Chicago Police officers scheduled to work consecutive days off in April and May, newly appointed IG says
Inspector General Deborah Witzburg conservatively estimated that “at least 1,190” Chicago Police officers were scheduled to work at least eleven consecutive days between April 1 and May 31 of this year.
At least 1,190 Chicago Police officers were scheduled to work at least 11 straight days during April and May, but CPD record-keeping is so inadequate, it’s impossible to tell the precise number, an analysis by the inspector general concluded Monday.
Two months ago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot denied that Chicago Police officers are being driven to the breaking point with a relentless string of canceled days off.
The mayor argued then that the amount of “respite baked into” the police contract and the advance notice officers “never used to get” before their days off were canceled makes Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara’s “narrative” about cops being worked “like mules” false.
The mayor’s argument has been ridiculed by scores of police officers on social media.
On Monday, newly appointed Inspector General Deborah Witzburg gave the police union and its City Council allies the hard evidence it needs to demand more down time for officers.
In an analysis painstakingly conducted by manually reviewing attendance, assignment and overtime records for “cohorts of officers by watch and day-off group,” Witzburg conservatively estimated that “at least 1,190” Chicago Police officers were scheduled to work at least eleven consecutive days between April 1 and May 31 of this year.
It was not known precisely how many of those officers actually showed up to work on those eleven consecutive days. But, most of them did—and that’s scary, the inspector general said.
“The concern is that we are putting both members of the public and members of the department at risk. Police officers on the street who have gone a long time with no rest are not equipped to make their best decisions. And they, themselves, are at risk. Their safety and morale is at risk,” Witzburg said.
“There are lots of industries that have restrictions on the number of days and the number of consecutive hours that somebody can work. Truck drivers and airline pilots and medical residents. There needs to be a decision made at CPD about how much is too much. There also needs to be a reckoning about how we store this information so that the department is well-positioned to make thoughtful, well-informed management decisions about how it staffs the police department.”
Witzburg said her analysis was hampered by the Police Department’s antiquated record-keeping. That needs to be fixed—and pronto.
Lightfoot acknowledged the need to give exhausted officers more time off.
“Tired, emotionally-wrought officers are not good for them, not good for their families and not good, frankly, for the community members that they’re serving,” the mayor said.
“It’s my expectation that we’ll be moving forward with a new set of policies so there’s more predictability and certainty over what those days off look like.”
The mayor said her pre-election budget will also remedy the problems that Witzburg identified with CPD record-keeping.
“It’s always nice when the IG talks in public about an issue instead of talking directly to us. But maybe Ms. Witzburg will give us the benefit of talking to us directly,” the mayor said in the first sign of tension with her newly appointed IG.
“The reality is, we’ve inherited an IT system and infrastructure within the city that hasn’t been upgraded since the Daley years. That’s a huge problem. So we are taking the first big steps in this year’s budget to make sure that we invest in our internal IT infrastructure. We have too many departments where systems don’t talk to each other. We have too many departments that have legacy systems that the manufacturers don’t even support.”
In a letter attached to Witzburg’s analysis, Police Supt. David Brown argued that the “circumstances are missing” from the IG’s report.
“From May 24 through May 31, Memorial Day weekend, Chicago was fully open for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The city welcomed hundreds of thousands of residents and visitors to more than 40 special events…ranging from music festivals to parades and fireworks shows. The department had to ensure it had enough members working to provide for the safety of every resident and visitor to Chicago at these events,” Brown wrote.
The superintendent further noted that 1,190 officers identified as having been scheduled to work at least eleven consecutive days represent just “ten percent” of the total number of sworn officers.
But he acknowledged having “used the time period reviewed” by the inspector general “as a learning experience which informed actions taken over other holidays” during the course of the summer.
“For example, in an effort to ensure that officers were not working 11 or more days over Father’s Day weekend and Pride weekend, the department analyzed which day off groups were impacted and did not cancel days off for those officers,” Brown wrote.