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Police Officers Should Get Signing Bonus, Housing Help So Chicago Can Fix Staffing ‘Crisis,’ Alderman Says

Ald. Matt O'Shea's ordinance aims to incentivize officers to stay with $10,000 in down payment help. He also hopes to attract veteran cops from other departments with a $10,000 signing bonus.

Left: Ald. Matt O'Shea (19th
Colin Boyle/ Block Club Chicago

CHICAGO — A South Side alderman wants the city to offer a slew of financial incentives to police officers in an effort to fix staffing problems.

Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th) plans to propose an ordinance Wednesday at City Council that would give police officers help buying homes and signing bonuses to incentivize veteran cops to leave other departments. It comes as the Chicago Police Department has 1,335 vacant positions because officers are leaving the job and the agency is failing to bring in enough recruits, he said.

Under O’Shea’s plan, all police officers who are first-time homebuyers would be eligible for $10,000 in down payment assistance. Newly hired officers could also choose a one-time $5,000 signing bonus instead of the down payment help. And a $10,000 signing bonus would be offered to veteran officers who transfer to Chicago from other departments, O’Shea wrote in his ward newsletter.

In the past two and a half years, 2,113 officers have left the department, but only 676 were hired in the same timeframe, O’Shea said, calling the situation a “severe staffing crisis.”

O’Shea, whose Far Southwest Side ward is home to many police officers, said the department is routinely canceling scheduled days off for existing officers to make up for the shortage of cops.

“Adding to the ranks of the department must be a priority on our public safety agenda. Regularly imposing unrealistic schedules on our officers is wrong,” he wrote. “Recruitment of new officers to the department is critical for our future.”

The proposed ordinance would also create a matching program for alderpeople who use ward funds to install public safety cameras in their ward.

“Given the workforce crisis, new technology is also necessary to help the department operate more efficiently,” he said.

O’Shea said at least 34 of his fellow aldermen have agreed to sign on as co-sponsors.

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