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CPD must do better job of recruiting, hold more frequent exams to counter tidal wave of retirements, mayor says

Law enforcement is ‘not viewed in the most positive light,’ the mayor said. ‘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.’

Chicago Police Supt. David Brown welcomes recruits back as training resumes with social distancing precautions in place in July 2020.
Chicago Police Supt. David Brown welcomes recruits back as training resumes with social distancing precautions in place in July 2020.
Sun-Times file

The Chicago Police Department needs to do a better and more aggressive job of recruiting minorities and hold more frequent entrance and promotional exams to counter a tidal wave of retirements, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Monday.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported this week that 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 department, with another 56 expected to retire in July.

Lightfoot responded to the mass exodus by stating the obvious. It is a “challenging time, no question about it” for police retention and recruitment in Chicago and across the country and CPD needs to be “creative” to counter that trend.

“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.

“But 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.”

The mayor argued there are “three ways the city directly creates middle class”: with jobs as teachers, firefighters and police officers.

“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,” Lightfoot said.

“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.”

Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara has blamed “absolutely miserable” working conditions for the mass exodus, meaning 12-hour shifts, canceled days off, the constant threat of punitive action and the four-year wait for a new police contract.

“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, who has been at loggerheads with Lightfoot.

“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.”

What will it take to turn that around?

“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.

The FOP president says the exodus from the Chicago Police Department would be “hundreds” of officers higher if you factored in the number of officers waiting for the police contract to be hammered out and the number of younger cops requesting “leaves of absence” so they can transfer to “other departments” in the suburbs and elsewhere.

“Just hearing phone call after phone call of how many surrounding police departments now have CPD members in the last year as lateral transfers. They’re all officers under ten years. They’re the ones who [normally] want to stick around forever and they’re not sticking around,” Catanzara said.