Amid the defund the police movement, Chicago police officers are retiting in record numbers, while many are leaving the big city department for smaller ones.
An ex-officer spoke about their decision to leave the Chicago police department on the condition of anonymity, reported CBS. The former officer said, "I think that you have to take care of yourself first. I was frustrated with the work schedule and being put in unexpected situations," adding his cohort is underpaid for the role.
Serving eight years at the Chicago Police Department (CPD), he knows of at least 10 others who've done the same in the past year.
Among the contributing factors for the declining include self-preservation, forced overtime and canceled days off, along with plummeting CPD ranks.
The large number of retirements has sparked a policing crisis in Chicago, according to Alderman Anthony Beale. "People don't want to be the police. The police don't want to be the police," said Beale.
City Budget Director Susie Park said to expect 908 officer vaccines by 2022, but Beale said that number is higher. "People fail to realize last year we wiped 614 vacancies out of last year's budget, and when we talk about that we're down 1,000 officers, we're actually down 1,600 officers.
The Chicago alderman contends the city's policing shortage isn't solely because officers are leaving or retiring, but that even if the city wanted to fill all its current officer vacancies, it couldn't.
Police Supt. David Brown said about 5,000 people applied to Chicago's police academy in 2021, compared to about 30,000 in previous years.
"By the time you get people to take the test, pass the test, go through the background check, and get in the academy, by then we're into 2023 going into 2024," said Beale, who believes there are less than 100 cadets in the academy.
The alderman said hiring goes hand-in-hand with initiatives to help combat root causes of violence, as major cities experience higher rates of violent crime, leading law enforcement to conclude the factors are related.
"I knew I was going to be put in worse working situations and conditions from there on because they were going to be short-staffed. The department and the people who run it, the politicians, they thought that that was an okay situation for officers to be in," said the former officer.
Police officers across major US cities have abandoned metropolitan hubs in droves, electing to retire or find smaller departments.
The moves occured amid heightened public scrutiny of law enforcement and calls to defund the police. The workplace transition contributed to officer shortages that many city leaders believe will continue to worsen.
Austin and Los Angeles saw more than a 60 percent increase in the number of officers quitting the force. Voluntary retirements hit 131 percent in Cleveland and 70 percent in Pittsburgh. In San Jose, 1 in 9 officers left the police department. One in 12 officers left the Las Vegas police force.
According to a study by the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund (LELDF), the number of officers who quit their jobs increased by 24 percent at the nation's largest police agencies. Overall, voluntary departures increased 18 percent and separations, and voluntary retirements spiked 14 percent.
Researchers tracked the exodus from June 2020, after the racial justice protests in response to the the death of George Floyd in police custody through April 2021, and compared it to the same period the year earlier.
Law enforcement professionals have voiced support for the trend to rehire officers and use emergency pandemic funding to improve public safety. But US police warn they cannot solve the attrition problem as easily or quickly as some may hope. Major cities are also dealing with lower recruitment rates, fewer cadets entering the academies and fewer qualified candidates applying to the force.
The former CPD officer who spoke anonymously said that reinforces the transition to a smaller department. "I enjoy ... having more days off, and it utilizes officers for better manpower to run a department, which I think is smarter, and it benefits officers more," he said to the local outlet.
DC saw 17 percent more officers quitting last year compared to the year before. This summer, the force was down 200 officers, and the city has seen a sharp spike in violent crime since 2019. The city also voted in 2020 to cut $15 million from the police budget. Earlier this year, Mayor Muriel Bowser asked the city council for $11 million to hire more police. The city council unanimously rejected the proposal.
City officials in Austin slashed the police budget by $150 million in the summer of 2020, a 33 percent cut. Over the next year, the 1,800-person police force lost nine percent of its officers to retirement or resignations. Meanwhile, homicides in the city rose 56 percent. This summer, the Austin city council reversed the budget cuts to pass record funding for the police department to hire more officers.
New York, Minneapolis and Los Angeles were also among the cities that imposed steep budget cuts in 2020 but re-funded the police after a dramatic rise in violent crime. Each of those cities saw homicides increase by more than 50 percent compared to 2019. The national homicide rate spiked 30 percent last year, marking the single most significant annual increase on record.