Chicago’s ‘Thin Blue Line’ Not Being Reinforced Anytime Soon

Then a high-ranking police insider showed me some documents. On a recent day shift, there were fewer than 1,100 officers actually working the streets. Compare this force of first responders with the 75,000 gang members the police estimate are out there. “We’re outmanned,” says this officer.

-Ben Joravsky, Chicago Reader, August 12, 2010

Is there a manpower shortage in the Chicago Police Department, like comments on the unofficial CPD blog Second City Cop and other alternative sites routinely suggest? Chicago Police Department Superintendent Garry McCarthy doesn’t seem to think so. From the Chicago Tribune’s Jeremy Gorner and Kristen Mack late Friday afternoon:

Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said the city doesn’t need more cops as it faces a $635 million budget gap.

“So far we’re showing we can get the job done with less,” McCarthy told the Tribune editorial board on Friday. “I just can’t in good conscious say that we need more when we’re not operating at peak efficiency.”

The department has moved almost 900 cops to beat patrols since the end of May, due primarily to the disbanding of two specialized units and the transfer of cops from desk jobs. The move has come following a campaign pledge made by McCarthy’s boss, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, to put more than 1,000 officers on the streets. Critics contend he’s simply shuffling officers around.

The Tribune’s John Byrne talked about the criticism back on September 15. Byrne wrote:

Mike Shields, president of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police, said the city needs to hire new cops to address the department’s vacancies, not just move officers around.

“There are 322 retirements year-to-date. There have been no new hires,” Shields said. “The Emanuel administration is counting transfers as new officers on the street.

“This is a shuffle,” Shields added. “If you keep saying 1,000 new officers are on the street, eventually people are going to believe it.”

According to Gorner and Mack, the Chicago Police Department has approximately 13,500 budgeted sworn positions, with roughly 1,400 of these currently vacant. Another 775 officers are on medical leave according to the CPD.

Those in support of keeping the department’s manpower at current levels point not only to the City of Chicago’s financial woes, but falling crime numbers computed by the CPD. Byrne added:

Emanuel also used a specific set of Police Department statistics to say that his police strategy is “gaining traction.” The data show crime was down 20 percent across Chicago from August through the first two weeks of September compared to the same time period last year.

According to Police Department numbers, homicides are down 31 percent during that time frame, shootings are down 21 percent and vehicle thefts are 12 percent below the 2010 mark for those six weeks.

The administration started the comparison on Aug. 1 because it took that long for earlier changes implemented by Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy to take effect, according to a mayoral spokeswoman.

Overall, Chicago homicides have dropped nearly 7.5 percent from January through July compared to the same period last year, according to numbers police officials released in mid-August. Vehicle thefts had increased by 16.8 percent increase through July.

Chicago readers take note: The “thin blue line” that exists in the Windy City will likely remain that way for the foreseeable future. Carry on accordingly.


Gorner, Jeremy and Mack, Kristen. “Top cop says city doesn’t need more officers right now.” Chicago Tribune. 30 Sep. 2011. (,0,970444.story). 3 Oct. 2011.

Byrne, John. “Emanuel cop shuffle questioned.” Chicago Tribune. 15 Sep. 2011. ( 3 Oct. 2011.


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Monday, October 3rd, 2011 Crime, Government, Public Safety, Self-Defense

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