Exclusive: Police district staffing plunges as citywide units grow — with questionable results

Sunday evening, officers in one of Chicago’s largest police districts worked their entire shift without having a single sergeant on the streets to supervise them.

And cops who worked the next shift in the same district also patrolled without any sergeants supervising.

The lack of oversight was not a scheduling snafu, according to two sources. The district simply doesn’t have enough sergeants to cover all of the shifts, they said.

After hearing about that — and confirming the situation by reviewing schedules from the station house — CWBChicago took a look at CPD’s staffing numbers. We found something incredible.

Since CPD Supt. David Brown took office April 2, the department has significantly reduced staffing at every single police district across the city, including its most violent districts. In fact, the five police districts with the most homicides this year have lost 18% of their assigned cops under Brown, according to Chicago’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG).

The backbone of the department

Just last week, Brown hailed officers in the North Side’s Lincoln District for taking another illegal gun off the street. “Patrol is the backbone of the department,” Brown tweeted. “[Street] stops like this lead to the removal of dangerous criminals from the streets of Chicago.”

Yet, under his leadership, 17% fewer officers are assigned to district patrol today than when he took office. The Lincoln District that he singled out for praise has lost 15% of its cops.

The Harrison District, which is leading the city in homicides this year, has lost 14% of its beat cops since April. Englewood, with the second-highest murder count, lost 17% of its front-line officers. The third-worst district, Gresham, has lost 22%. 

Every district across the city has lost more than 10% of its officers since April, except Far Northwest Side’s Jefferson Park (16th) District, which has lost 6%.

Exacerbating the districts’ staffing problems: CPD brass, still shellshocked from waves of looting this year, continue to reassign resources from districts across the city to babysit the downtown area.

New units, limited results

In total, there are 1,376 fewer officers assigned to districts now than in April. Where have the cops gone?

According to OIG, the department has lost 354 cops since April to retirements and other separations. CPD’s five detective divisions have gained about 79 investigators from other units.

But most of the patrol officers appear to have gone to citywide teams that Brown created when he redesigned the department in July.

A whopping 745 officers have been sent to the department’s Community Safety Team (CST), which “[participates] in community service projects such as food drives, prayer circles, peace marches and other neighborhood events with block clubs, churches and the residents most affected by crime” while also responding to “crime hot spots,” the Tribune reported in July.

Another 283 cops have been assigned to Brown’s Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT). That group was designed to handle protests and looters. Or, as its commander, Michel Pigott, told the Tribune in July, it “[protects] the residents and the visitors that come to the downtown area or any area in the city that are here to peacefully express their views or enjoy a ballgame or a festival.”

While there have not been any ballgames or festivals for the CIRT to handle, its ranks have also grown beyond its initial 250-person headcount.

CPD’s “summer mobile” anti-violence unit picked up 140 officers.

Despite consuming about 10% of the department’s frontline patrol officers, CPD’s new anti-violence units have had limited success.

Carjacking reports are up 125% compared to last year. November’s murder count will be about 50% higher than last November, according to records maintained by the independent crime stat site HeyJackass. This month’s death toll will also exceed homicide counts seen in the Novembers of 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2018, too, according to the site.

Districts shorted

Second City Cop, a blog that focuses on Chicago policing matters, recently posted schedules from short-staffed districts across the city, including Rogers Park, Deering, Albany Park, Shakespeare, Gresham, and Harrison.

And police officers who patrolled the Lakeview-based Town Hall Police District on the evening of November 22 didn’t have any sergeants in the field to support and supervise them, according to a copy of the district schedule provided to CWBChicago.

There was one sergeant on duty. But he was taken off the street to sit at the station’s front desk.

According to the schedule, the next shift in that district, which patrolled from late in the evening to early Monday morning, also had no sergeants in the field. Well, that’s not 100% accurate. The district did have one sergeant in the field — but the department assigned him and his tactical team to sit on a Magnificent Mile street corner to scare looters rather than patrol their assigned district where robberies and carjackings are up nearly 150% in recent weeks.

Asked about the lack of supervision in Town Hall, one of the city’s largest and most populated districts, a CPD spokesperson said, “the Chicago Police Department has specific policies and procedures in place to ensure proper manpower and supervisors throughout the city. For the safety of our officers, CPD does not comment on specific deployment plans or tactical decisions.”

Abut three hours before the department issued that statement, Brown tweeted a video, saying the department “will remain committed to not just meeting, but exceeding the consent decree requirements for as long as it takes.”

One of the consent decree’s major provisions calls on the department to have one sergeant supervise every ten officers.

An unhappy alderman 

In 2015, Lakeview Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) voted in favor of a major property tax increase after he said he received assurances that the Town Hall Police District would receive 35 more police officers, to a total of at least 366 cops.

Tunney began sending copies of the district’s monthly staffing numbers to his constituents in a weekly email. The last time he did that was on June 19, when OIG says Town Hall had 391 officers.

Since then, the district’s manpower has fallen every month to its current strength of 329 officers, according to OIG. That’s far below the 366-cop minimum that Tunney said he was promised in exchange for his property tax vote five years ago.

Tunney hasn’t forgotten.

He voted against the city’s 2020 budget and another property tax increase Tuesday. That afternoon, he explained his “no” vote. Deep into his message to constituents, Tunney concedes that the 2015 manpower promise has been broken.

“I was very public with the fact that my [2015] vote was to ensure more police resources in the 44th Ward and, in order to provide our families with a competitive, high quality, neighborhood high school, $25 million in capital investments for Lake View High School,” Tunney wrote. “The investments in Lake View High School were made and the police resources came, but have once again been reduced as the new police superintendent has prioritized citywide units as opposed to district policing and beat integrity.”

There’s no word on why Tunney stopped sending monthly manpower updates to constituents at the exact moment when the decreases began.

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About CWBChicago 6762 Articles
CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is news@cwbchicago.com