Law & the Courts

Chicago Police Are Retiring at ‘Unheard of’ Rate

A Chicago Police officer inspects an Apple store that was vandalized in Chicago, Ill., August 10, 2020. (Kamil Krzaczynski/Reuters)

Police officers in Chicago have been retiring at twice the average rate recently, sounding alarms among local officials that the city could soon be short of officers if the trend continues.

Michael Lappe, vice president of the board of trustees for the Policemen’s Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago, said at least 110 officers are set to retire over the next two months, an “unheard of” number, the Chicago Sun Times reported.

“We’re seeing double the average number of retirees each month,” he said. “The average is about 24 a month.”

There have been 335 police retirements through the end of July this year, compared with 475 for all of 2019 and 339 for all of 2018. 

While Lappe cited a change in health insurance benefits as a major cause of the influx, police union president John Catanzara said the mayor’s lack of support for police officers is at fault. 

Catanzara has fought with Democratic mayor Lori Lightfoot over police reform and union contract negotiations — officers are currently working under a contract that expired in 2017 — for months.

“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 said. “If you have the financial ability to do so, I don’t blame a single soul for leaving.”

At least 30 police officers have been injured in the city recently as a result of protests and rioting. After looting earlier this month injured 13 officers and led to the arrest of more than 100 people, Chicago 9th Ward Alderman Anthony Beale said, “I think the mayor has lost the confidence and the control of this city.”

“We’re way short of officers now, and I’m afraid, as people go to retire, we’re going to be even further short of officers on the street,” Beale told the Sun Times. “We’re working officers double-time, triple-time. It’s only a matter of time before officers are totally burned out.”

The department continues to add officers, with some cadets finishing training and others entering the police academy next week, a police spokesman told the paper.

Yet Lappe said his worry is that a large, continued increase in retirements will harm the pension system’s financial health.

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