Issue Brief: Long Term Costs of Police Staffing Increases

With all the media coverage on the question of whether or not to hire more Chicago Police Officers, nobody has talked about the financial costs to the city. Through this issue brief, we have.

All quick solutions to enduring and persistent social ills invariably have long-term consequences, not just for those experiencing the worst of the ills, but for the entire city. Nowhere is this clearer than in the difficult decision about how a city is to respond to violence, and by observing the fact that while crime rates have dropped significantly since the early 1990s, they remain stubbornly high when compared to other large cities throughout the US. Long-term solutions to social ills require public policy that will forego very limited short-term results (and the splashy headlines that go along with them) in favor of sustained long-term gains that leave the city in a much improved position to respond to problems in the future.

Public policy questions (such as hiring more police officers) that will cost a city hundreds of millions of dollars or even billions of dollars over a decade need an informed evidenced based decision-making process. Over the last 24 months, Chicago has seen significant cutbacks in services and layoffs in the public sector that have resulted in relatively small savings when compared to the City of Chicago’s overall budget. In 2012, the City of Chicago took the very unusual step of cutting the Chicago Police Department’s (CPD) budget when the city eliminated 1200 vacant positions despite persistent problems with street violence in many communities in Chicago.

The closing of three police district stations and the merging of officers to nearby districts followed the reduction in budgeted positions at the CPD. During this same time period, Chicago experienced an unseasonably warm winter, which contributed significantly to a single year rise in homicides in 2012. This rise in homicides was not lost to the local media, as an obsession with street violence contributed to front-page news of weekend shooting and homicide totals. The intense media coverage resulted in policy makers and the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the union that represents the CPD’s approximately 8,500 patrol offices, being cited routinely in the press calling for the city to hire more officers. The limited coverage surrounding the need to hire more officers never discussed the long-term cost to the city to hire and employ additional officers for any length of time.

We contacted the Fraternal Order of Police in an attempt to obtain the number of officers they believe should be added to the current staffing at the Chicago Police Department but they refused to provide a number to us. You can follow this link for more information regarding the inability of the Fraternal Order of Police to produce evidence based analysis supporting their calls for more officers.

There is clear evidence in the public record that some sort of analysis was completed for the CPD. Yet attempts by CJP and others to get access to that analysis continue to be stymied. Here is an exchange between 10th Ward Alderman John Pope and Superintendent Jody Weis from the CPD budget hearing on October 19, 2010, you can find this exchange in its entirety starting on page 44 of the transcripts.

Pope: Can you quickly kid of summarize where we are there for the last two years or so? We talked about trying to analyze our current allocation and review our district boundaries. Can you give us an update as to where we are with that specifically?

Weis: We recognize we have to do something with resource allocation and beat realignment, district realignment. What we’ve decided to do is, you remember last we were talking about contracting with a company. We contracted with that. What our focus was primarily was resource allocation. I know a lot of people are concerned about the size of the district and the size of the beats. But I think a phase one approach to those concerns would be to make sure we have enough police officers to meet the threat. The company provided their information. It’s under review now with the Bureau of Patrol to make sure that these academic numbers actually fit in with the reality and operations. We anticipate, in the very near future of having a resource reallocation, if you would, that will better balance the workload of our officers throughout the entire city. And we think we can give a much better level of police service, because we will allocate our resources to address where crimes actually are, It’s under review right now. I know I’ve talked about this for two years. We will deliver it in 2010.

Pope: And when you say “allocate the resources,” not necessarily changing the boundaries, but changing the amount of personnel in different areas, districts, beats, et cetera?

Weis: Right, we have looked at some numbers, and there are some districts that have an additional number of police officers that are about and beyond what analysis has proven that they actually need. So we can move some of those {officers} to a district where analysis has shown that they need more individuals. What we’d like to do is, after we get that in place, and after the wards are realigned, then phase two on this would be looking art realignment of districts and moving the boundaries that just make sense.”

It is vitally important for policy decisions that will cost taxpayers hundreds of millions to billions of dollars be evidence based and include a thorough public discussion about the pros and cons involved.  With the current state of reporting on the police manpower issue community members are not receiving the information they need about the long-term costs nor have they been presented with any analysis to support the fact that Chicago needs more officers.  Community members have received plenty of sound bites supported by emotion and some good intentions,  CJP seeks to bring evidence based analysis to the discussion.

In this issue brief, we analyzed data obtained through the Illinois’ Freedom of Information Act from the CPD & the City of Chicago’s Office of Budget and Management to detail the long-term costs to the City of Chicago for hiring more officers.

Social science research methods do exist to help the city determine the number of officers needed, yet when this research has been conducted for the CPD by academics or consultants, the completed results have not released to the public. This leaves a void in the public discussion that is filled by sloppy news reporting that serves as an echo chamber for FOP’s cries for more officers, despite the FOP’s inability to provide any fact based findings to substantiate their claims. In spite of media reporting to the contrary, an increase in officers does not automatically result in a decrease in street violence: regardless of what one hears and reads in media accounts, long-term violence prevention and the role police agencies play in that issue is murky.

Let’s look at the Data

In chart A, we analyze the salary costs associated with hiring and employing for ten years 1,000 and 2,000 more patrol officers while assuming not a single one of those officers receives a promotion, which means they continue to be employed by the CPD at the least expensive rank possible. This analysis does not include the costs of benefits that go along with the hiring and retention of each individual officer. We analyze those costs in chart B.

Chart A

If you add up those figures in Chart A you come to the following total salary costs for each group of officers:

  • 1000 Officers: $693,561,000
  • 2000 Officers: $1,387,122,000

In Chart B, you will find the benefit costs associated with the city hiring the officers for a decade:

Chart B

If you add up those figures in Chart B you come to the following total benefit costs for each group of officers:

  • 1,000 Officers: $371,434,543
  • 2,000 Officers: $743,422,855

Now, lets put those figures together to come a complete cost for employing these officers:

1,000 Officers:

  • Salary: $693,561,000
  • Benefits: $371,434,543
  • Total: $1,064,995,543

2,000 Officers:

Salary: $1,387,122,000
Benefits: $743,422,855
Total: $2,130,544,855

As you can see, if the city were to hire a thousand more officers it would, at a minimum, cost community members over $1 billion over the next ten years for both salary & benefits. For two thousand more officers over the same time period we would be spending over $2.1 billion. This is not to say we shouldn’t hire more officers, but if the city is going to make a decision to hire hundreds or thousands of new officers we need to understand the cost not just for a single year (the first year of employment for officers is also the least expensive year as it turns out) but over the long-term.

Are there alternatives to hiring more officers?

The causes for street violence in any large city are complex, multilayered, and often work to exacerbate each other. Despite all the coverage of the crime and violence in Chicago, root causes are hardly (if ever) covered. The failure of covering those root causes also blocks any discussion of solutions that result in long-term solutions for communities. The solutions that are called for are the same solutions that have been played out in Chicago for the last 50 years; more police and longer jail sentences. There is nothing new in the reporting on violence and crime in Chicago. In fact, if you look back over last couple decades, we follow the same pattern of reporting and editorials after every high profile murder that we all promise will be the last one.

School Closings

Since the early 1990s social institutions have slowly but surely been withdrawing from the same areas of the city most in need of those institutions. A current example is the fact that 19 schools in Englewood are on the list to be closed down by the Chicago Public Schools. The removal of social institutions from these neighborhoods further erodes community cohesion and the collective ability of the community to respond to crime and violence in their community, called collective efficacy. This basically means that, over time, the removal of social institutions may cause more crime than it reduces. This is not something that is part of the discussion in the coverage around closing schools or other social institutions.

Over the last fifteen years through the Tax Increment Financing District program, hundreds of millions of dollars have been removed from the Chicago Public Schools funding and instead went for a variety of other expenditures throughout the city. Despite numerous attempts by journalists at the Chicago Reader to track expenditure of Tax Increment Financing District dollars the city has been unable to produce records to show where the vast majority of that money was spent. This has left the Chicago Public Schools in what has been reported to be hundreds of millions of dollars in debt. The rampant closing of schools and transferring of students to various schools that cross race, ethnic, and gang boundaries only serves to exacerbate youth disenfranchisement and, as a result, youth violence. Schools and other social institutions can and should serve as institutions that help stabilize communities, but in Chicago in the communities most in need of stable social institutions they often serve the opposite functions. I am not convinced that only redistributing the possible $2 billion that might be spent on additional officers to the Chicago Public Schools would be the silver bullet, but it is certainly possible that this might just return greater violence reductions for our investment than the hiring of more officers. It certainly should be included in any discussion that is seeking long-term solutions.

Gentrification & Foreclosures

In Chicago there is little doubt that the gentrification of many neighborhoods in the 1990s and 2000s which only served to increase the hyper-concentration of people with the least resources to respond to crime and violence in their neighborhoods played a significant role in causing future crime and violence. For the most part, this gentrification only exacerbated an already serious problem the city has had with racism and segregation, both by race and class. Of course, Chicago has a long history of segregation that goes back over a hundred years and, while talked about plenty in Chicago over the last 50 years, little has been done by public institutions to impact this pernicious problem. The recent collapse of the housing market has pushed many communities, already teetering on the edge, off the cliff with the massive amount foreclosures that will do nothing but further destabilize these communities and destroy what little cohesion that was there.

Here we take a look at data on foreclosures provided by the Woodstock Institute of Chicago. The first tab is the total number of foreclosure filings by community area, and the second tab is the total number of foreclosure filings by ward. As you can see, both charts display the data for each of the last five years.


If you look at the top twenty community areas for the number of foreclosure filings over the last five years you will see that, with a few exceptions, the community areas with the largest hyper-concentration of individuals least capable of responding to crime and violence are also dealing with huge numbers of homes being foreclosed. The foreclosures are just another factor that, over the last five years, has served to destabilize these communities and make then even more prone to violence and crime as their populations become increasingly transient. Once again, assisting these communities with their housing problems alone might not be the complete solution, but something that definitely belongs in the discussion.


A long-term solution to violence in Chicago is going to require more than what is in the current discourse on the subject. The obsessive and one-sided coverage of street violence in Chicago and the limited solutions that are included contributes significantly to the short-term solutions that our political leaders seek out. This is not a recent phenomenon, but instead Chicago has a long history of repeating the same actions over and over but expecting different results. Every so many years in Chicago the press goes crazy with coverage of a “horrific” homicide of a child (as if the murder of any of our children is not horrific) and police and political leaders scramble to find a short-term political solution that calms the press and public but really has done nothing to address the underlying social ills that are the root cause of the problem.

For all those that blame the CPD for homicides in Chicago remember that the CPD does not build schools, does not create jobs, and does not feed people. Over the last few decades the ever-increasing amount of resources we have steered towards law enforcement and away from treating these social ills has played a significant role in where we are now in Chicago. In 2012, we continued to remove money from treating the social ills of our communities by taking money away from mental health treatment, a proven crime reduction strategy.

CJP is not advocating for or against the hiring of additional officers by the CPD. We are advocating for a public discussion about the long-term costs of hiring more officers and whether that money would be better invested in other areas that might provide a long-term solution to the underlying root causes of violence. We are also advocating that any research or data analysis either for or against the hiring of offices that has been completed by the FOP or the CPD be released the public to inform the public discourse.

About the Data

Through the Illinois Freedom of Information of Act we obtained from the Chicago Police Dpeartment the Salary Schedule for Sworn Police Personnel 2007 – 2012. This schedule details pay rates for three grades of officers through the term of the contract between the CPD and the FOP. For our analysis we used only grade 1 for the entire ten year analysis. This assumes that not a single officer receives a promotion to another grade and thus assumes the least expensive grade for all officers in our study. This also assumes that the CPD & the FOP in their next two contracts do not negotiate a pay raise for officers at the grade 1 level. This will invariably not reflect reality but allows us to produce this issue brief assuming the least expensive rate to hire and maintain officers over the ten year time period. An additional assumption is that not a single officer leave the employment either willingly or through dismissal over the course of ten years. We cannot guess at what pay increases may be negotiated for the next two contracts so we decided to use the most conservative numbers we could.

Through the Illinois Freedom of Information of Act we obtained from the City of Chicago’s Office of Budget and Management a spreadsheet that details the budgeted figures for per officer expenditures for benefits. The city only provided us with the costs of benefits for the first year an officer is employed and the average costs for benefits per officer. From those figures we were able to extrapolate the cost per yer per officer for benefits on a downward sloping trajectory that reduces every year by a set amount over the course of the first ten years of employment for officers that stay grade 1. Much more detailed information would be required to project actual benefit costs, including the percentage of officers that stay at grade 1 for the first ten years of their employment, the average number of dismissals over the same time period, and the number of promotions during that time period. This information is not readily available from the CPD.

In our analysis we did include a uniform allowance that is provided to each officer each year of $1,800. We did not include the duty availability pay, expenses associated with baby furlough, personal days, holiday pay, comp time, or overtime. Each one of these categories, or together, can add significantly to the costs associated with hiring and maintaining the employment of these officers. While it was provided to us we also did not include overhead costs for officers per year. The City provided figures of approximately $6,200 dollars per officer per year. We were unable to confirm to our satisfaction how realistic this figure was so we left it our of our analysis.

Tracy has nearly two decades of experience researching and working within criminal justice systems. When Tracy began pursuing a career dedicate to system reform, he found that no single organization existed to promote evidence-based discussions among law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve. Recognizing that citizens in Chicago deserved the right to demand transparency in their criminal justice system, Siska established the Chicago Justice Project. He received his Master of Arts degree in Criminal Justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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