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Post-pandemic resignations shift demographics of Chicago Police Department before Mayor Johnson makes any changes

Streaming with Brad: Chicago Police Department retirements
Streaming with Brad: Chicago Police Department retirements 06:24

The police exodus is on pause, data suggest.

Prior to Chicago's mayoral election, the head of the city's police union told the New York Times in March that if Brandon Johnson was elected "we're going to see an exodus like we've never seen before." 

At the time, the police department was suffering from a wave of resignations and retirements that left the city with 11,711 officers, according to staffing data from the Chicago Inspector General's Office, about 1,500 fewer cops than it had in 2019. 


The pandemic and the so-called great resignation have left Chicago and cities like Dallas, Atlanta and Seattle with reduced police forces. 

Four months later, Johnson is now Chicago's mayor, and that exodus hasn't happened. 

However, in that time, the city has netted only 17 police officers – staunching the exits – but far away from reaching pre-pandemic levels. 

And while Mayor Johnson narrows his choice for a new Superintendent, a decision that will ultimately shift department policy, Chicago's police force is drastically different from before the pandemic. 

The Chicago Police Department is now younger, less white, and more Latino, according to a CBS Chicago analysis of data from the city's Inspector General and public records requests made to the Department of Human Resources.


The police department also lost hundreds of Black officers, and has about half as many Asians compared with their portion of the city's population, which might make it harder for the city to fulfill an obligation under a consent decree to hire candidates that "reflect a broad cross-section of the Chicago community the Department serves."

Chicago's population is mostly evenly divided between white, Black, and Latino residents, with a 7% Asian population, according to the latest Census figures.

Most officers who quit during the pandemic were white, but they were also the largest portion of the police force for much of the city's history. White officers accounted for 48% of the force in 2019 and 58% in 2003.

That proportion has dropped to 43%, with 5,009 officers as of last month, according to IG data, a 22% decrease of 1,414.

During that same time period, the number of Black officers declined from 2,778 to 2,344, a 16% decrease.

In 2019, there were 3,529 Latino police officers, and this month there are 3,806, an 8% increase of 277 officers.

A lot of these trends aren't new. The increase in Latino officers was first reported by WBEZ in 2019, which showed Latino officers surpassing Black officers in 2016. 

The pandemic and subsequent burnout accelerated that trend. 

A deeper dive shows an additional demographic issue at play: a generational shift.

The data show there was a 19% increase in officer retirements, from 477 retirements in 2020 to 552 in 2021, which contributed partly to lowered staffing levels. Many of those retirees were an average of 56 years old, roughly 3 years younger than a decade ago.

But there was a sharp 206% increase in voluntary resignations from 82 to 251 in that same period. And that may be at the root of why recruiting has stalled. Most of those resignations were officers in their mid-30s, far younger than officers who quit before retirement in the past.

Younger officers are calling it quits sooner, with as little as six years of service on average, compared to 10 a decade ago. The average age of officers is now 42, down from 43.


The conversation around police spending has been a contentious issue for years in Chicago. The police department accounts for a massive swath of the city's $16.4 billion budget, pension contributions, and overtime costs. 

The City Council approved a nearly $5 million class-action settlement on Wednesday stemming from the police department's stop-and-frisk policies.

While Johnson skirted the activist-driven calls to defund the police, the department is plugging staffing holes with record amounts of overtime money, while still struggling to respond to 911 calls.

Johnson's office did not answer questions on what his office was doing to address staffing issues or recruiting efforts. Instead, his office referred questions to the police department. 

When asked about efforts to ramp up recruiting efforts, and whether those efforts focused on closing its racial gap, a police spokesperson said the department continues to ramp up robust efforts to fill vacant positions from retirements. 

"Throughout the past year, our Recruitment & Retention Unit has worked to streamline the application and hiring process while also working to attract diverse candidates," police spokesperson Maggie Huynh said in an emailed statement. 

"Recruiters visit military bases, job fairs, historically black colleges and universities both in the Chicago area and across the country.  We have also provided additional opportunities to take the entrance exam in-person more often at City Colleges of Chicago locations across the city." 

While the pandemic has left Chicago with fewer officers, the city is no stranger to police shortages. 

Like today, the city had fewer than 12,000 officers in 2012. 

And in 1986, then Mayor Harold Washington had to grapple with a shortage of 1,000 officers from a budgeted 7,900 street cops, the Chicago Tribune reported. That does not include detectives and special units. The city's population was closer to 3 million back then.

Chicago now has a population of 2.7 million people and is budgeted for about 9,600 street cops.

There are currently 8,400 street cops on the payroll. 

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