Downtown Chicago police district had just 9 cops on patrol last Thursday night

Chicago’s Central (1st) Police District station at 1718 South State (Google)

CHICAGO—How many officers should be on patrol in a Chicago police district overnight? Let’s say it’s the Central (1st) District, which generally covers the area between the river, the lake, and 31st Street. Neighborhoods like the Loop and South Loop, the lakefront and parks, parts of Bronzeville, and the West Loop.

60? 50? 30? How about nine? If you said nine, then you might be the person who crafted the Central District’s schedule for last Thursday night into Friday morning. Because that’s how many were on patrol.

A source provided the staffing information, and it’s pretty bleak: One sergeant was on duty for the entire district. Four patrol cars, with two cops each, were on the streets. The district assigned a fifth car, a solo unit, to sit at the “migrant landing zone” all night, but that officer could not answer any calls.

Eleven patrol areas, referred to as “beats,” divide the district. Every beat should have a dedicated car. But only four beats had cars Thursday night.

Those beats are grouped into three sectors. Each sector is supposed to have a sergeant assigned for supervision. As you already know, there was only one sergeant that night.

Ideally, the district should have two transport vehicles—”paddy wagons” for the politically incorrect—on the streets. It had none on Thursday.

The police department assigned 274 cops to the Central District in March, the most since January 2023, when the district had 281. That’s much better than in the fall when staffing dipped as low as 236 cops.

Chicago’s Office of Inspector General posts monthly staffing data online so anyone can look it up.

In 2018, though, the Central District averaged well over 300 officers, peaking at 363 cops in December that year. The district has not had more than 300 cops in any month since July 2021.

If CPD leaders are to increase district-level staffing, they will have to find the bodies from elsewhere within the department. That’s because, despite high-profile recruiting campaigns, CPD loses officers more quickly than it hires recruits.

The department had 11,684 officers in March, about 1,000 fewer than in March 2018. Making things worse: While the number of cops is declining, CPD is creating more units that must be staffed. 

The department had 105 units in March 2018. It now has 120. There are 22 district units. That means 98 units within the department have nothing to do with district-level patrol.

Other units include various detective divisions and airport operations. There’s the bomb squad, SWAT, traffic accident investigations, and evidence technicians. 

Here are a few units the department has added since 2018 and the number of officers assigned to each in March: Strategic Initiatives Division (12); Investigative Response Team (29); Deputy Chief Central Patrol Group (18); Deputy Chief Area 4 and Deputy Chief Area 5 (102); Professional Standards and Compliance (14); Random Drug Testing Unit (6); Awards Section (5); Recruitment and Retention (23); Tactical Review and Evaluation (55).

Also new is the Detached Services Uniformed Support Unit, whose 93 officers support the long-running Detached Services Unit’s 61 officers. Their job? Protecting the mayor, mostly.

That’s right. There’s a very good chance that on Thursday night, there were more cops assigned to protect the mayor than the entire Central District.

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About CWBChicago 6801 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