Officers are retiring from Chicago’s police force at an “unheard of” rate as law enforcement faces mounting pressure from activists, elected officials, and riots amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Chicago Police Department veterans and city officials are worried that the sudden rush of retirements is going to leave the police force short on officers and strain those who are left with hectic schedules, according to The Chicago Sun-Times.
The Chicago Police Department is set to retire 59 police officers by the end of the month followed by another 51 by the end of September, according to Michael Lappe, who sits on the board of trustees for the Policemen’s Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago.
“That’s unheard of,” Lappe said. “We’re seeing double the average number of retirees each month. The average is about 24 a month.”
Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara put at least part of the blame on Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
“I have no doubt that it’s going to continue, and I can clearly see a smaller spike within the upper ranks [of] lieutenants and above,” Catanzara said. “Who wants to stay in this environment? If you have the ability to leave, there is no incentive to stay anymore.”
“The mayor doesn’t back us,” he continued. “If you have the financial ability to do so, I don’t blame a single soul for leaving.”
Looters and rioters trashed parts of the city, including its “Magnificent Mile” shopping district, in early August. Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown blamed Lightfoot and Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx for “emboldening” lawless behavior by refusing to take strong action against earlier rounds of mass violence.
“Criminals took to the streets with the confidence that there would be no consequences for their actions,” Brown said during an Aug. 9 press conference. “Let me say that again: Criminals took to the streets with the confidence that there would be no consequences for their actions.”
“These looters act as if there are no consequences for their behavior. And they base that on what happened previously, that we made a lot of arrests during May and June and not many of those cases were prosecuted to the fullest extent,” Brown continued. “We have to have consequences for the arrests that Chicago Police officers make, through great threat to their own safety, they’re being shot at to make these arrests. And these looters, these thieves, these criminals are emboldened by no consequences in the criminal system. They get released, many charges get dropped.”
Attempting to avoid another round of violence, Catanzara asked U.S. Attorney John R. Lausch, Jr., to take federal action against alleged criminals arrested during the latest riots. Catanzara noted that the lack of action on the part of local prosecutors was putting police officers’ lives in danger.
“Our members were subject to threats both verbally and physically, were battered with all types of bricks and rocks, and stood the line to help protect the citizens and their property,” Catanzara said. “Our offices did this with the understanding that the looters and criminals would be prosecuted and held to account for their actions. It appears that this is not going to happen.”
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