Chicago police retirements this year already top all of 2018, could end up among highest ever

‘Law enforcement and being a police officer have come under attack,’ Ald. Ray Lopez says. The city’s on track for ‘one of the highest retirement numbers in the city’s history.’

SHARE Chicago police retirements this year already top all of 2018, could end up among highest ever
Ald. Ray Lopez (15th) says he worries Chicago police retirements will be among the highest ever this year.

Ald. Ray Lopez (15th) says he worries Chicago police retirements will be among the highest ever this year.

Rich Hein / Sun-Times

More Chicago police officers have retired this year than in all of 2018.

That’s according to the latest figures from the police pension board, which show that, from January through June, 363 officers have left the Chicago Police Department, and another 56 are expected to retire in July.

“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.

The department — which has roughly 13,000 sworn officers — had 560 retirements in all of 2020, 475 in 2019 and 339 in 2018.

In January, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that other cities also are seeing big increases in the number of police officers retiring. In New York, 2,500 cops retired last year, nearly double the number in 2019, in a department with about 34,500 uniformed officers.

Asked about the latest retirement numbers, a police spokeswoman says the department “continues to monitor and maintain appropriate resources citywide” and that recruitment is ongoing.

But Lopez says he thinks the police department’s recruiting efforts “have come woefully short” and the mayor has demoralized officers and scared off potential recruits with anti-police rhetoric. He also says a new police reform law makes cops 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,” the alderman says.

Among those who’ve recently taken early retirement is Randall Darlin, a former deputy chief of the police department’s bureau of crime control, who was sworn in June 1 as a deputy police chief in a Denver suburb.

John Catanzara, president of the Chicago police union, says there’s also been an exodus of young cops who haven’t been with the department long enough to qualify for retirement benefits. Some have fewer than 10 years on the job but want to move to other police departments because they’re “absolutely miserable,” according to Catanzara.

He says those young officers take leaves of absence until they can get hired elsewhere because 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,” the union president says. “Today’s hero, tomorrow’s zero.”

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