Help Wanted: Do you want to work nights, weekends, and holidays? Do you want to freeze your posterior off in the winter and roast alive in the summer? How about working 12-hour shifts for days and weeks on end?
Are you interested? Wait, there’s more! Have you always wanted a job where your days off and vacations are canceled with little notice, leaving you holding the bag for airline and cruise tickets that can’t be refunded? How about being moved from one area of the city to another with even less notice? Would you be pleased with working for four years without a contract?
Where do I sign up, you ask. But there’s still more! Do you want to make split-second decisions at the risk of life and limb, only to have those decisions endlessly second-guessed by incompetent supervisors and dimwitted politicians? Do you want to live in a city rotting under the effects of out-of-control crime, and while living there (because you have to) be blamed for the crime by those same incompetent supervisors and dimwitted politicians?
If all of that sounds appealing, then step right up for a position with the Chicago Police Department!
None of the above is mentioned on the website for CPD’s recruitment efforts, which prompts the question of whether anyone in Chicago concerns himself with truth in advertising. The department’s recruiting slogan is “Be the change,” which may sound fine to anyone who knows nothing about Chicago and its peculiar brand of politics, but rings laughably hollow to anyone who does.
This is not to say there is nothing in need of change in the Chicago Police Department, it’s just that no one who comes on the job today will be in any position to effect that change for at least 15 years, by which time odds are he will have been corrupted to the same degree most of the department’s current management has been. Lather, rinse, repeat.
It will come as little surprise that CPD is having trouble keeping its ranks fully staffed, as veteran officers retire in record numbers and younger ones seek opportunities in cities that are more livable and better managed, which is to say almost anywhere else. And, needless to say, the line of people queuing up to join the department is not a long one.
Police work is challenging under the best of circumstances. The odd hours and changing schedules are hard on cops, especially those with families. Still, few of them complain if they are given a schedule they can rely on and can make plans accordingly. But when those schedules are tossed in the bin with little notice, when 8-hour days are suddenly 12-hour days when day shifts become night shifts, when city politicians take vacations while telling cops to cancel theirs, well, it all gets to be a bit much.
As galling as all of this may be, there are still Chicago cops doing what they can to stem the violent crime that plagues so many of the city’s neighborhoods. What chaps their hides more than anything else is the way they are treated when things go wrong and they find themselves under the cruel lens of the media.
Consider the case of Officer Evan Solano, who was recently stripped of his police powers pending the investigation of a March 31 officer-involved shooting. After a long foot chase, Solano shot and killed 22-year-old Anthony Alvarez in Chicago’s Portage Park neighborhood. Footage from Solano’s body camera and from a security camera clearly showed Alvarez carrying a gun when he was shot, so there is little question as to the legality of Solano’s actions. The uninformed may think the shooting improper because Alvarez was running away when he was shot, but a police officer chasing an armed suspect is under no obligation to allow that suspect to reach a more advantageous position from which to shoot him before defending himself. Alvarez ran almost 300 yards while carrying the gun, at any point along which he could have dropped it. He chose to keep it, leaving Officer Solano no choice but to believe he intended to use it.
Even so, Solano has now been benched pending the outcome of the investigation, which will proceed at a glacial pace and produce a result based at least as much on politics as it is on CPD policy and the law. And now there is one fewer member in the shrinking cadre of Chicago cops willing to go out and chase armed criminals like Anthony Alvarez.
Assuming Solano is returned to duty, as he should be, how motivated will he be to place himself in a similar situation? How many of his colleagues are willing to do so now? There have been 353 murders in Chicago so far this year, ahead of 2020’s pace and far ahead of 2019’s. Chicago’s summer shooting season has just begun, and it appears nothing is being done to slow the trend.