‘There is a mass exodus’: Chicago on pace to lose more than 1,000 officers due to resignation, retirement


CHICAGO (WGN) — Chicago is on pace to lose more than 1,000 officers this year to resignation and retirement, the highest annual total since at least 2018. 

And that was before 21 Chicago cops were stripped of their police powers over their refusal to disclose their vaccination status to the city and the controversy over the vaccine mandate began to accelerate.

“There is a mass exodus,” says FOP President John Catanzara.

It’s caused, in part, by burnout and fatigue, leaving a smaller number of officers to fight a citywide surge in violent crime.

According to city data obtained by WGN Investigates, there were a total of 12,258 sworn personnel as of June 2021, down from 13,218 two years ago. 

Fueling the decline are the 597 officers who resigned or retired through the first seven months of this year, nearly matching or exceeding the annual totals in recent years, data showed.

“When you look at it, it’s a recipe for disaster,” says Alderman Anthony Beale (9th Ward). “And that’s what we’re seeing right now. It is why crime is escalating in the city of Chicago.”

There is no database showing where officers end up after leaving the city. But observers say they’re seeing older officers retire, while younger ones, those with five years or less of experience, are taking new jobs in the suburbs.. 

Meanwhile, Chicago is struggling to attract new recruits, leaving the city without a solution to a manpower shortage that may worsen if more officers depart, as some have threatened, over the city’s vaccine mandate.

“The policies that are put in place aren’t working,” Beale says. “The resources aren’t there, and nothing is changing. And so, we need to change it. And we need to change it now.”

Emergency responders across the country are walking off the job instead of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine or reporting their vaccination status.

Six employees with the Seattle Police Department have refused to submit their vaccination status and are facing termination. 103 employees have requested exemptions. And for Washington State Patrol, those numbers are much larger, as 127 employees have left their jobs.

When asked about concerns over public safety with fewer officers on the street, Chicago police Superintendent David Brown said, in part:

“The number one killer of police officers in this country right now is this virus and that this process of being vaccinated and are tested will save their lives. That right there, put a period and put it in quotes. That’s the most important thing.”

The police chief has also written a threat that officers could be fired if they don’t comply with the city’s COVID-19 vaccination policy, adding that those who choose to retire may put their retirement benefits at risk.

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