Chicago, IL – Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot ordered a city-wide hiring freeze on Friday that included the Chicago Police Department.
Lightfoot has claimed that former Mayor Rahm Emanuel left the city with more than a $1 billion shortfall and officials said the hiring freeze announcement is likely to the be the first in a series of austerity measures implemented, including layoffs, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
“With Chicago facing one of the largest budgetary gaps in recent history, these measures are just one part of a broader approach we must take to restore our finances and put Chicago on a path to a stronger, more secure future,” City of Chicago Budget Director Susie Park said in a statement.
“The hiring freeze, in effect until further notice, will allow the Budget Office to take a hard look at our programs, services and operational needs to determine our spending priorities for 2020,” Park said.
But the decision to extend the hiring freeze to include the Chicago police was significant because it was the exact opposite of what the department has been trying to achieve for the last few years, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
In 2016, Emanuel launched a two-year plan to add more than 1,000 officers to the Chicago Police Department in response to the rise in homicides and violent crime in the city.
Right now, Chicago has 13,400 sworn officers on the streets plus “dozens of additional sergeants and detectives,” according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
The class of recruits that will graduate from the police academy in August will be the last for the time being under the hiring freeze.
The city has cancelled the recruit class that was scheduled to begin in September, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
The budget director said that the city would make “priority positions that directly affect the health and safety” of Chicago residents exempt from the hiring freeze.
The mayor’s office tried to assure residents that their safety would not be affected by Lightfoot’s decision, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
“This exemption will ensure departments like police, fire and aviation remain staffed and prepared for seasonal work and will ensure basic services remain in place for all communities,” the mayor’s office said in a statement. “The city will work to ensure the hiring freeze does not impact police/patrol coverage and to ensure the freeze doesn’t limit the number of personnel devoted to solving crimes.”
The mayor, who was headed out of town on vacation right after the hiring freeze was announced, was said to be laying the groundwork for another round of tax increases for the residents of Chicago, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
Lightfoot’s vacation with her wife and daughter to Maine was in itself controversial after she ordered the city’s police officials to cancel their summer travel plans in light of the crime emergency on the city streets.
When she found out an official had taken a pre-planned vacation anyway, she lambasted him in the media.
“That would be incredibly disappointing to me if that happened because I gave a very specific directive that no exempt should be taking vacation during the summer,” Lightfoot said at the time. “So, if that happened, that’ll be something that we have to have a serious conversation about.”
“The exempts have to set the example,” she declared. “And the example of doing something the mayor has directed them not to do is highly problematic.”
While visiting a police strategic command center on Aug. 15, Lightfoot discussed the personal sacrifices she makes as a public servant.
“People tell me all the time to ‘oh you’re so busy and you should take time off,’ [but] it’s really important for me to be visible,” she claimed.
Lightfoot departed on her week-long vacation just days later, even though 22 people were wounded and 3 were murdered in a series of shootings across the city this past weekend.
Blue Lives Matter reached out to the Chicago Police Department to find out how understaffed the department was at the time of the freeze and were referred to the city finance department. We submitted a FOIA request to finance but had not yet received a response as of publication time.