As officers detail high burnout levels in Chicago PD, officials hope increased funding will help
"You're like a zombie. You're not even coherent. You're kind of just going through motions."
By Ashley Silver
CHICAGO — The Chicago Police Department has been massively impacted by officer shortages, with reports showing CPD officers are quitting in droves, some searching for greener pastures in the suburbs of Illinois.
CPD officer Amy Hurley recently spoke to CBS News Chicago about why the years after the George Floyd murder were particularly strenuous, with her work hours drastically changing after the incident.
"The hours, you know, were pretty typical. I worked a straight shift. But then that started to change," Hurley told CBS Chicago. "It was like Groundhog Day. You'd go to work, you'd be there 12-plus hours. You'd come home, you'd sleep, you'd eat, you'd do it again."
The unpredictable schedule eviscerated Hurley’s work/life balance and often encroached upon time spent with her two sons.
“You’re like a zombie,” she told the media outlet. “You’re not even coherent. You’re kind of just going through motions.”
Although Gov. JB Pritzker mobilized hundreds of National Guard troops to assist police responding to civil unrest after the death of George Floyd, the impact on staffing was almost instantaneous.
According to CBS, officers worked 12-hour shifts, with no days off for weeks during that time. Police reached such burnout levels that the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the union representing Chicago officers, filed a motion in June of 2020 asking the city to bring in help so officers could rest.
"After 2020 until when I left in early 2021, days off were getting canceled literally every weekend," one anonymous former officer told CBS.
Resignations and retirements seemed to increase in 2021, just after debates regarding the COVID vaccine mandate began to take center stage for first responders. CBS reports more 1,000 officers left Chicago's force during that time – the most in almost 20 years.
Chicago Mayor Lightfoot addressed the burnout of officers at one point, seemingly implying that it was simply part of the job during one press conference earlier this year. She mentioned the head of the FOP was creating a campaign to illustrate officers were being treated as “work mules” and argued that point.
"That's just simply not correct," Lightfoot said during the press conference. "We understand there's a lot of stress and strain on being a police officer, that part of that is inherent in the job."
Despite her claims, numbers show a mass exodus of officers to departments in the suburbs in the past few years. CBS reported that nearly 450 officers have made this transition since 2019.
In order to tackle burnout, funds have been set aside to enhance recruitment and retainment programs within the CPD.
Lightfoot did allocate funds in her 2023 budget for approximately 14,000 full-time positions in the police department and increased the police budget by $100 million, to a total of about $1.94 billion.
Top law enforcement officers in the CPD are optimistic about recruitment, reinforcing their position that the vacancies left by officers are being readily filled.
"Chicago Police Department's recruiting has really turned a corner in a positive way. At this point this year, we've recruited and hired more new Chicago police officers than we did in all of 2019," Chicago Police Supt. David Brown said at a September 12 press conference. "Obviously, we're quite challenged with a backlog with vacancies of about 1,400. But we have these last several months made a significant stride in hiring Chicago police officers."
Brown went on to state the department’s goal to hire 700 officers prior to a September deadline was narrowly missed, hiring 588 officers during that time period.