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Shortage of Chicago Police officers draws concern with summer, DNC coming up

Chicago Police officer shortage a concern with summer, DNC coming
Chicago Police officer shortage a concern with summer, DNC coming 02:48

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A major Chicago Police officer shortage has created a serious barrier to keeping events in Chicago safe.

The men and women of the Chicago Police Department are putting in the work. Yet the reality is that the department is down a significant number of sworn officers.

Summer is coming soon, and Chicago summers usually bring an uptick in crime. That, combined with the Democratic National Convention coming to Chicago this year, has people holding their breath about whether the short-staffed CPD will be ready.

"What we're doing right now is making the best with the number of officers that we have," Chicago Police Supt. Larry Snelling said at a public forum with the Commission for Public Safety and Accountability last week.

Snelling recently acknowledged his department's shortcomings.

"We are down," Snelling said. "We're down close to 2,000 officers."

Retired CPD First Deputy Supt. Anthony Riccio, who spent 34 years with the department, called the shortage a "huge concern."

"When you're down that large a number of officers, that's going to show up in the neighborhoods and communities where people are looking for more police officers - particularly with the summer coming up," Riccio said.

Residents expressed concerns to Snelling about the lack of patrols.

"There were always officers around, and we just don't see that anymore," a woman said to Snelling at the recent public forum.

Riccio said with just under 2,000 officers short, the department will pull from special units first.

"Units that normally supplement those officers now become the officers doing the patrolling," he said.

And as Chicago prepares to host at least 50,000 people in August for the DNC, Riccio believes the shortage only adds to the challenges.

"It's going to take a lot of manpower, and there's no substitution for experience, and that's another thing a lot of the officers - look they're great hard workers - but there's no substitution for experience," said Riccio, "and a lot of these officers are young. They certainly don't have experience with these type of incidents."

Riccio said many of the officers who were present when Chicago hosted the NATO summit in 2012—and were credited with preventing unrest from boiling over during the summit—have left the force. Thus, he said, more training will be key for the DNC.

"They're doing what they can to be ready, but if what we're seeing on college campuses through the country is any indication—and I believe it's kind of a precursor of what we're going to see—it's going to be quite the event," said Riccio.

To help secure the United Center and overflow throughout downtown, the neighborhoods will be impacted.

"Where do those officers come from?" Riccio said. "Ultimately, they come from the blue and white cars we see driving around our neighborhoods."

Despite the uphill battle, Riccio is encouraged by the superintendent's leadership.

"The superintendent's got a plan, and I think he's going to do his best to make sure that the communities are safe, and the convention is a success," said Riccio.

Riccio points out the CPD will get help from federal agents, Illinois State Police, and the Cook County Sheriff's office when the DNC arrives.

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