Letter demands change in Chicago Police Department over concerns of officer burnout

Chicago News

CHICAGO — The union representing Chicago police sergeants has released a letter demanding changes to the department’s reliance on 12-hour shifts and canceled days off.

The letter coming after Chicago saw one of it’s most deadly weekends so far this year.

The president of the association says there is no question violence needs to be addressed in the city, but canceling days off and extending shifts just isn’t working.

“We worked 12 hours, canceled RDO’s and we still had 12 homicides and I don’t even remember how many shootings, about three dozen shootings or so,” said Jim Calvino of the Chicago Police Sergeants’ Association.

Calvino pushed against the strategy.

“All these days, cumulatively, are taking their toll on the officers,” he said. “Morale is pretty low in the department. You’re not allowed to have time with your family. No baseball games. What am I doing this for?”

RDO’s stands for Regular Days Off.

Clinical psychologist and former police officer Carrie Steiner believes more overtime and more canceled days do not benefit law enforcement or the city.

“I’m done with being politically correct because officers are losing their lives and that’s something I’m not okay with,” she said. ” I really do want what’s best for the community and what’s best for the community is having healthy officers. Everyone does better when they’re feeling healthy, emotionally, physically.”

More than 50 people were shot over the weekend, another 12 from Monday afternoon into Tuesday morning — with a total of 14 killed since Friday.

The sergeants’ association didn’t send the letter to Supt. David Brown or Mayor Lori Lightfoot, saying the last letter about a month ago about being short aout 100 sergeants was unanswered.

The letter quotes the mayor from last year during some of the most current contract negotiations, saying she knows how important it is for officers’ wellness. The president says officers can’t be well and at 100% when they don’t have time to recover from one of the most tramatic jobs that is out there. He says 12-hour days sometimes stretch into 15 hours, and they don’t have time to spend with the family or enough time to get rested before their next shift.

The department has not responded to the letter specifically, but the superintendent was asked about officer burnout at his press conference Monday.

As far as the violence goes, Supt. Brown said he believed judges need to keep more violent criminals behind bars rather than put them on electronic monitoring. The FOP, which represents rank-and-file officers, issued a vote of no confidence in the mayor and supterintendent last week.

One of its many reasons was the extended shifts and canceled days off.

The FOP said it is eroding what little morale it has left in the department, and it just doesn’t bring the crime numbers down.`

The mayor’s office, so far, has not responded to a request for comment on the sergeants’ association letter.

Beyond the emotional toll, 15th Ward Alderman Ray Lopez pointed to an overblown budget cutting into the city’s bottom line. In 2020, the mayor budgeted $95 million for CPD overtime. The actual cost was more than $177 million.

“I think what it tells us is that we’re not adequately staffing the department,” Lopez says, “to meet the needs based on the regular salaries that we also budgeted for.”

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