CHICAGO — Two married police officers have tapped relatives to look after their children as they work more than three weeks with no days off.
Neither is getting a break until after the busy July 4 weekend, which often requires officers to work 12-hour shifts, said one of the officers, whom Block Club is not naming since they are not allowed to speak to reporters.
The officers are among a crowd pushing back after Mayor Lori Lightfoot last week said Chicago’s police officers have “an incredible” amount of time off and furloughed days. Lightfoot had been asked about concerns officers are burning out and working too much overtime.
“We’ve had to have family come in from out of state to watch our kids during this more than three weeks straight of working,” the Northwest Side officer said.
Lightfoot said officers have experienced a lot of stress and strain in the past few years, saying “this is the hardest time to be a police officer.” But the department “has taken extraordinary steps to try to ease that burden on individual officers and their families,” she said.
“Obviously, there are some times when there may be an emergency and a day off has to be canceled. Or because of particular circumstances in a particular geographic area, there may be a reason to hold people over their tour for a couple of hours,” Lightfoot said at a news conference last week.
But some officers said those kinds of events aren’t rare.
Supt. David Brown has increased officers’ shifts to 12-hour days and canceled days off since 2020 as violence has increased across the city.
The Northwest Side officer said he worked 21 days with one day off in fall 2020 — then he worked another 14 days straight. His wife had a similar schedule, he said.
The officer had his regular weekend days off canceled toward the end of 2021 with short notice, he said. Officers are usually notified on a Tuesday or Wednesday if their days will get canceled for the upcoming weekend.
“How this mayor and superintendent get away with this month after month is beyond me,” he said.
Department leadership has left burnt-out officers feeling disillusioned and unsure of where to turn for guidance and morale — and some, like another Far Northwest Side veteran cop, can’t wait to retire.
“I love this job, but it’s been 31 years and [it’s] heartbreaking to see so much incompetence destroy it,” he said.
The department has struggled to retain and hire officers.
More than 650 officers have retired or resigned this year, with 747 projected to retire or leave by the end of the 2022, according to department data shared with Block Club. There are 353 recruits in the police academy as of late June.
In June 2019, the department had 13,263 sworn officers, which decreased to 12,971 by June 2020, according to a city database. There are now 11,638 on the force.
The 16th District has 219 officers and supervisors, down from 264 in June 2020.
Police spokespeople did not return requests for comment.
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