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Chicago police ‘brain drain’? Retirements have stabilized, but 660 cops retired in 2021, almost twice as many as in 2018

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Chicago Tribune, March 2022

Officer Mahir “Mike” Affaneh panicked after he heard Mayor Lori Lightfoot make a statement in October that officers might have to go on a no-pay status if they refused to be vaccinated. Affaneh, 53, who had worked as a Chicago police officer for 26 years, had not had the shot at the time and couldn’t afford to go without pay. So two days later, he retired. It was a hasty decision that he now regrets, he said, but it made him one of more than 660 Chicago police officers who retired and collected their pensions in 2021, according to data from the Policemen’s Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago. The number is about double from 2018, when about 350 officers retired and collected their pensions. “A lot of people left early for their reasons, but the morale is down in the department for sure,” Affaneh said, adding that officers have left due to working long hours, having their days off canceled and the department being short-staffed.

While CPD leaders said the retirement rate has now stabilized, experts warned such a large number of more senior officers exiting may contribute to a “brain drain” at the top of the department. The reasons for officer departures have been numerous, experts said, from citizens having a negative view of police in the wake of major police misconduct cases, such as the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, to officers being placed under new scrutiny, to vaccine mandates.

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