The Chicago Police Department is canceling days off for officers to strengthen its presence through the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, Supt. David Brown said Monday. Police brass canceled all days off beginning Tuesday, May 24, until May 31, according to a department memo.
Rank-and-file cops have become accustomed to having their days off nixed by the department, particularly during warm-weather months and special events.
But, CWBChicago has learned, some of the department’s highest-ranking officers have restricted and canceled time off for cops under their command while they personally enjoyed sometimes weeks-long vacations.
In one case, a deputy chief restricted time off for cops during the holidays and essentially told them to suck it up because it’s part of the job. Then, records show, he took a week off for Christmas.
On December 6, a memo from CPD’s second-in-command canceled one day off for every officer over the following week. Yet the second-in-command himself took at least 18 days — and possibly the entire month — off in December. He took the second half of November and part of January off, too, according to records.
To prepare for this report, CWBChicago secured two sets of records from CPD via Freedom of Information Act requests: the personal time off records of Supt. Brown and First Dep. Supt. Eric Carter and a collection of “command absence logs,” daily lists of command-level officers who are off-duty each day. The department’s Crime Prevention and Information Center (CPIC) prepares and distributes the logs.
“We all missed holidays”
Shortly before Christmas 2021, the deputy chief of CPD Area 1 clamped down on time off for people under his command.
“My office needs to see all the supervisory time off for the next two weekends,” Frederick Melean wrote in an email. “We are in restricted time due … we all missed holidays in our careers.”
“Too bad that people saved their [time off days]. They can sell them, lose them, or switch.”
Melean then enjoyed vacation days from Christmas to New Year’s Eve, according to CPIC records.
For the 2020 holidays, CPIC records showed Melean on vacation from December 18 to December 28 and on furlough for Thanksgiving from November 23 to November 30. He was a commander at the time.
Wish you were here
On December 6 of last year, Carter’s office issued a memo canceling one day off for all officers beginning December 8 and ending December 13. No reason was given for the cancelation.
The next day, Carter began a 12-day vacation from December 7 to December 19, according to payroll records. According to the command absence logs, he was out of the office even more: from November 16 through November 20, November 22 through December 5, and December 11 to January 9. The CPIC logs listed the reason for his times away as “other.”
Last month, on April 15, a sergeant assigned to Carter’s office sent a memo to all units on his behalf: “The use of elective time off by sworn CPD members is restricted. Furthermore, the use of elective time off will require prior approval from the Deputy Chief or above within the requesting member’s chain of command.”
Carter was taking a personal day when the memo came out, according to payroll records.
Acute accent mark required
Some cops who report to Dep. Chief Gilberto Calderon were informed this month that he will reject their requests for time off if they do not include an accent mark over the letter “o” in his last name:
“ALL TO-FROMS MUST HAVE THE ACUTE ACCENT MARK OVER THE O (Alt 0243). THEY WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED. PLEASE DO NOT WRITE IT IN WITH A PEN”
The instructions are boldfaced and underlined in the department memo, which mentioned Calderon’s last name four times — but never included the accent mark.
On Monday, Brown told reporters that the department was trying to give cops more notice of canceled days off. In fact, CPD this month distributed a “weekend cancellation matrix” for three months beginning May 31.
It remains to be seen if the department will add to those cancelations on holidays and during spikes of summer violence. And, if it does, whether the command staff will be affected.