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CHICAGO — The city is on pace to lose more than 1,000 officers this year to resignation and retirement, the highest annual total since at least 2018. 

And that was before the controversy over the vaccine mandate began to accelerate.

“There is a mass exodus,” says FOP President John Catanzara.

One caused, in part, by burnout and fatigue, leaving a smaller number of officers to fight a citywide surge in violent crime.

According to city data obtained by WGN Investigates, there was a total of 12,258 sworn personnel as of June 2021, down from 13,218 two years ago. 

Fueling the decline is the 597 officers who resigned or retired through the first seven months of this year, nearly matching or exceeding the annual totals in recent years, data showed.

“When you look at it, it’s a recipe for disaster,” says Alderman Anthony Beale (9th Ward). “And that’s what we’re seeing right now. It is why crime is escalating in the city of Chicago.”

There is no database showing where officers end up after leaving the city. But observers say they’re seeing older officers retire, while younger ones, those with five years or less of experience, are taking new jobs in the suburbs.

In recent weeks, WGN Investigates spoke with numerous police officials throughout Cook and DuPage counties. All said they had hired or seen increasing interest from Chicago police officers. 

“We see this as a win-win situation,” says Oak Brook Police Chief James Kruger. “I think it’s good for the potential employee and it’s good for the organization.”

Meanwhile, Chicago is struggling to attract new recruits, leaving the city without a solution to a manpower shortage that may worsen if more officers depart, as some have threatened, over the city’s vaccine mandate.

“The policies that are put in place aren’t working,” Beale says. “The resources aren’t there, and nothing is changing. And so, we need to change it. And we need to change it now.”