CHICAGO — Facing depleted ranks and swelling violence, Chicago police brass resorted to an old tactic to try to keep city streets safe heading into the summer — they routinely canceled days off for officers.
However, police scheduling is so complicated it’s been hard to determine precisely how many officers were impacted. Now the Chicago Inspector General’s office is out with a new analysis that found at least ten percent of the city’s officers were ordered to work eleven consecutive days or more in just the months of April and May. That was before major summer holidays, events and crime patterns led to additional cancelled days off.
When questioned about the report Monday, Supt. David Brown appeared to misunderstand its findings.
“There was one-thousand scheduled but the IG’s report said five or six actually worked beyond the ten days – that’s in the report,” Brown said.
The city’s inspector general told WGN Investigates that is not what her report concluded. She said the superintendent appeared to confuse a few examples of officers who didn’t work with the actual number, which has been difficult to quantify.
“Certainly not all” of the officers worked eleven or more consecutive days, Chicago Inspector General Deborah Witzburg said, “and certainly more than five or six.”
“We’d like to say more – and more definitively – but the fact of the matter is we can’t – and nobody can – because of the state of the data and how it’s stored,” Witzburg told WGN News.
Brown’s bumbling of the report’s findings sparked an immediate backlash from the head of the union that represents rank-and-file officers.
“He’s either clueless or willingly and complicity lying to everyone,” FOP Lodge 7 president John Catanzara said.
Earlier this summer, some officers took to social media to express their frustration.
In June, Officer Michael Carroll tweeted: “Just finished day ten in a row. Ten long days with no days off… is there any political will in Chicago to end this and allow Officers the ability to decompress and spend time with family?”
Mayor Lori Lightfoot has been repeatedly questioned about officers’ concerns.
“This notion — I think the infamous head of the FOP has said as part of his campaign: ‘They’re being worked like mules,’ it’s just simply not correct,” Lightfoot said in late June, according to the Chicago Tribune.
In a letter accompanying the release of the inspector general’s report, Superintendent Brown acknowledged the impact on officers but defended the practice.
“1,190 officers were scheduled to work more than 11 consecutive days, but OIG acknowledges that not all of those officers scheduled to work actually worked 11 consecutive days,” Brown wrote. “While the Department acknowledges It’s important to balance days off and public safety… this group of individuals who may have worked more than 11 consecutive days represents approximately 10% of the total number of sworn officers employed by CPD.”
The inspector general cautioned the department’s scheduling system makes it difficult to say with certainty what’s happening — let alone give police leaders the ability to provide a real-time snapshot of the impact on officers.
“The state of CPD’s records around scheduling data and work histories renders a thorough and timely analysis of consecutive days worked cumbersome and difficult,” the report states.
Read the full report here.