Please hold: Downtown police district has been staffed by just 18 cops on recent evening shifts, schedules show

We hope you don’t need a cop in a hurry downtown because you may be waiting a while.

Recent schedules for the 1st (Central) Police District, which patrols the Loop and South Loop, the Museum Campus, and parts of the West Loop and Near South Side, show as few as 18 district officers are patrolling the streets on some shifts.

Not 18 cars. Cops. Eighteen cops to patrol the area from the Chicago River to 31st Street and Lake Michigan to (roughly) the expressways.

Now, some transit cops and other units might swing through, but they don’t handle 911 calls. The district officers do that. And there were 18 of those on duty Tuesday afternoon and evening, records show.

Where were the others? Well, 13 were enjoying their usual day off, five were on medical leave, one is injured on duty, one was on vacation, and nine were in training. Some others were assigned desk jobs at the station.

The district had no transport vans (“paddy wagons”). There were no “rapid cars” dedicated to quick responses to important calls. Five of the district’s 11 patrol sectors weren’t assigned beat cars. And, as a bonus, two of the 18 cops were assigned to a specific post for their entire shift, so they weren’t handling calls, either.

Tuesday’s anemic staffing wasn’t a one-off for the Central District. Other recent schedules show just 20 officers on patrol for the evening of July 14 and 21 working the next night. Last weekend, both Friday and Saturday evenings had 22 cops on duty.

We’ve reported a few times, most recently just last week, about the staffing declines every CPD district has seen since Supt. David Brown pulled about 1,000 cops from districts to staff specialized citywide units.

He recently told reporters that it’s “normal” for 911 calls to stack up in backlogs because cops aren’t available to take assignments. Perhaps. But is it “normal” to only have 18 or 22 cops responsible for patrolling one of America’s densest urban centers? According to the stack of 1st District schedules on our desk, the answer is “yes.”

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