CHICAGO—The Chicago police force is once again being called on to return to working 12-hour shifts, with days off canceled for the Father’s Day weekend. Chicago Police Sergeants’ Association President Jim Calvino said the prolonged working hours harm police officers and make it hard for them to do well both at work and at home.
“They all came on the job, knowing they’d be working long days and on our days off sometimes, but continually doing it on an almost permanent basis—it’s a recipe for disaster,” Calvino told The Epoch Times.
Calvino, a sergeant at the Chicago Police Department (CPD), said the working hours are the worst he’s ever seen during his nearly 29 years at the department. His union represents about 1,200 active sergeants and 1,400 retired sergeants.
The sergeants are the first level of supervision for the officers on the street. On most of their shifts, they drive around their district in squad cars and provide directions or onsite assistance to police officers.
Currently, CPD has 100 vacant sergeant positions, Calvino said, so many supervise as many as 25 to 35 police officers, which he believes is already a work overload. The sergeant-to-officer ratio recommended to the CPD by a federal consent decree (pdf) is 1 to 10. Additionally, they’re asked to work even longer hours with no days off.
“They never get a chance to recuperate. Their bodies are worn down, and their minds are worn down. They are basically on autopilot at work. They may not be able to pick up onto the little tips and clues,” he said.
“Then, in a life-and-death situation at work, they might make the wrong decision and hurt others, or they act too slow and get hurt themselves.”
The prolonged working hours could also lead to marital problems at home, Calvino said.
“Your spouse is like, ‘You are never home, you are always at work.’ That raises a little bit of tension between married spouses, and it’s just further eroding your family life,” he said.
Their relationships with their children also suffer, Calvino noted.
“For little boys or girls, 5, 6, or 7 years old, they can’t comprehend that you have to go to work. All they see is my mommy or daddy doesn’t want to be with me.”
To help officers cope with responsibilities at home, former CPD Chief of Detectives Eugene Roy has rallied nearly 1,000 retired police officers to lend a hand. They help their working peers transport their kids to schools, take care of their kids after school, handle grocery shopping, pick up medication, and walk their dogs.
“The officers are thrilled. Even those that do not need help say that just the fact that somebody is out there, looking out for them, and trying to help them is very motivating. It makes them feel much more secure as they do their jobs,” Roy told The Epoch Times.
The cycle of extended working hours started early last year, when the department scrambled for help as many officers were quarantined at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The hours grew worse in May when riots broke out in many parts of Chicago following the death of George Floyd.
On top of that, Chicago has seen a sharp increase in violent crimes such as shootings, murders, and carjackings since the pandemic. So far, 2021 has been the deadliest year for Chicago in more than a decade. To curb the rise in crime, CPD Superintendent David Brown has routinely canceled days off and extended work shifts.
“Every year, our officers rise to the occasion,” Brown said at a CPD press conference on May 20. “Our officers are dedicated and committed to this department and to protecting the people of Chicago, which oftentimes means adjusting our hours to ensure that we are in the neighborhoods during the time that the violence is occurring.”
While Calvino agreed that an increased police presence is a positive in times of increased violence, he noted that doing so through extended work could lead to less efficient work from the city’s police officers.
“It’s good to have police out there, but now, you’re taking officers and wearing them down so much, are they really useful out there?” he said. “It’s like driving a car continuously around the block, the tires are going to be worn out, the brakes are going to be worn out, and it’s going to be a junk car—that is where the officers are at now.
“Their game plan is wrong, and they need to figure out alternative measures to cease the violence that we have here.”
His union sent letters to Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Superintendent Brown demanding a change of working hours, but to no avail. He plans to file an unfair labor practice complaint with the state labor board, but that might take several months to get processed, he said.
Chicago’s largest police union, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), has filed a grievance report about the working hours with the Management and Labor Affairs Section at CPD. FOP represents about 8,000 active and retired police officers.