By fall 2011, months after taking office, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he had fulfilled a campaign pledge to move some 1,000 cops to beat patrols to beef up the Police Department’s front lines in the fight on crime. In the more than two years since then, reports the Chicago Tribune, those numbers have plunged by hundreds of cops. In spite of a renewed hiring push over the past two years, the department has struggled to keep up with retirements, in part because of sweetened medical benefits for police retirees as part of a cost-saving move a few years ago.
According to the data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, the department had 7,078 rank-and-file officers and supervisors assigned to work in its 22 patrol districts as of Dec. 8, a decline of 10 percent, or 779 beat officers, since fall 2011. Emanuel and police Superintendent Garry McCarthy view the beat officers as the backbone of the department. McCarthy has stressed the need to put the necessary resources in the hands of his district commanders and then hold them accountable in the fight against crime. According to city data, the department’s overall staffing stood at about 12,250 as of the first of the year, down almost 900 officers from the end of 2009.