Even if Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel manages to add nearly 1,000 cops in the next couple years, his promised surge of new hires would barely make up for the decline in the police department’s ranks on his watch, reports the Chicago Sun-Times. There were 6,244 rank-and-file police officers working the city’s 22 police districts as of Oct. 19. That’s down more than 800 from the 7,047 beat cops shortly after Emanuel took office in 2011. A decade ago, overall police department staffing totaled more than 14,000. At the start of 2011, the year Emanuel won his first term, the department had 12,737 members. Now, that figure has fallen below 12,000.
Early in Emanuel’s first term, a batch of newly hired officers increased the number of rank-and-file cops, particularly in some of the city’s more violence-prone neighborhoods. Waves of retirements have washed away those gains, leaving the number of officers working in the districts — who account for the bulk of the department’s payroll — far below the total five years ago. The department brought on 409 recruits in the first nine months of this year. Over the same period, 547 people retired. The decline in manpower has cast a spotlight on the long-running debate over how the department should deploy its troops. For years, the Emanuel administration has fought a legal battle against the American Civil Liberties Union and activists who have sued to boost police deployment in high-crime areas. They argue that the workload for officers in higher-crime areas still is far greater than in some parts of the city they say are relatively overstaffed. “The city continues to have longer wait times for police in minority communities,” says the ACLU’s Karen Sheley. “Nobody should get worse service because they live in a predominantly black or brown police district.”