Watchdog expects number of Black officers in Chicago to drop

The number of Black police officers in the Chicago Police Department is likely to decrease as officers retire in the coming years, according to the city’s public safety watchdog.

Deborah Witzburg, the city’s deputy inspector general for public safety, pointed to a “demographic cliff on the horizon” for the department as the city has tried to increase its recruitment of Black police officers. She says that because of the racial makeup of officers who are approaching retirement age, the number of Black officers is likely to go down, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Over the coming years, the representation of Hispanic officers is likely to increase, she said.

Though former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel made it a priority to hire more Black officers while in office, African Americans still remain underrepresented among the ranks in a city that’s almost one-third Black.

Alderman Chris Taliaferro, a former police officer, and other members of the City Council expressed concern on Monday about data showing that several police districts with high Black populations have relatively few Black officers.

He believes having a higher concentration of African American officers would serve to reduce complaints in areas that are predominantly African American, and actually produce better police services.

Alderman Nick Sposato asked how the Chicago Police Department “can possibly achieve” greater diversity when the majority of the people who sit for the department’s tests are white men.

Witzburg acknowledged that with current events and the way people feel about police, increasing diversity will be challenging.