CHICAGO - The Chicago Police Department has 975 vacancies for patrol officers and 105 empty detective positions, a top mayoral aide disclosed Wednesday, assuring City Council members that CPD is revving up the police academy to keep pace with retirements.
Earlier this month, the Office of Budget and Management reported 1,408 sworn vacancies after a staggering 814 retirements already this year. That’s compared to 973 all of last year, and 625 in 2020.
On Wednesday, Budget Director Susie Park refined those numbers after delivering a quarterly report on city spending to the Committee on Budget and Government Operations.
Under questioning by Ald. Harry Osterman (48th), Park disclosed there are 975 vacant patrol officer positions "as of today" — and that’s only after "we just had a class of 103 start" their six months of training at the police academy.
Osterman then asked how many detective positions were vacant, and was told it was 105. That’s 10.4% of an overall 1,016-detective contingent, that, critics claim, is one-sixth the detective force New York City has.
Park then was asked to follow up by providing alderpersons with a written breakdown of all sworn police vacancies by job title, along with the number of recruits in the police academy "so we can look at what the expectation of filling those vacancies is over the next six months," Osterman said.
That includes the training division, which is charged not only with overseeing recruit classes, but also with training veteran officers to comply with the mandates of a federal consent decree.
"We have had 589 [patrol officers] start this year. … I think CPD has held a class every month. So we are working our way up. … If they continue through that, we’re gonna be over 800 new [officers] going through the academy. Then, hopefully, we’ll start seeing that coming out into" neighborhood police districts, the budget director said.
Osterman was unconvinced. He essentially argued CPD is drinking from a firehose, with depressed turnout for police exams that once drew thousands and demoralized officers leaving faster than the city can hire and train replacements.
"As we add folks, we’re losing folks as well. That number is significant," Osterman said.
"If you could give us what the forecast is for the other vacancies, we could also assume what, with promotions, that number is and how long it’s gonna [take] to get to where we need to go."
Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th), whose Far Southwest Side ward is home to scores of Chicago Police officers, was equally skeptical about the hiring pace.
"We’re now looking at nearly 1,800 less police officers than three years ago today, as our class sizes — the last two being 50 and 16 graduating from the academy. Folks, we’re not getting more cops. We’re losing more cops each and every day. We’ve got to lean more on technology. We’ve got to think outside the box," O’Shea said.
"Every major municipality in this country has purchased helicopters. More than a hundred of the top eight major cities. We’re still flying up there with helicopters from when many of us were still in high school. … Are we any closer based on being told by the mayor that we were getting a helicopter. Are we close on that?"
O’Shea was told the Office of Public Safety Administration had worked feverishly to "shift expenditures away from" state and federal grants, thereby freeing up grant money for the long-awaited purchase of new police helicopters.
Park replied the city is "at the purchasing point," and though they must allow time for the craft to be built, "we are moving full-steam-ahead on the purchase of two helicopters."
As the hearing dragged on, retiring Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) demanded to know why alderpersons are being forced to use their treasured menu money on surveillance cameras when CPD’s $1.9 billion budget is "one of the largest" in city government.
"Menu money" is equal amount of discretionary funds, allocated to each alderperson to spend in their ward as they wish.
"You all are squirreling stuff away and telling everybody to come to our menu money. That is wrong. You’ve got over a billion dollars that you need to be spending on equipment to make sure that our communities are safe. And to the extent that you all want to shirk your responsibility and have the police come to the aldermen to ask them to use their little measly $1 million to do that is reprehensible," the always outspoken Hairston said.
"I need a camera and I need one before somebody else gets killed. And that needs to happen today."