CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago police officers aren’t only retiring in record numbers, many are leaving the big city department for smaller ones.

It’s contributing to an officer shortage that many city leaders believe will only get worse before it gets better.

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CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov talked with one ex-officer about the decision to get out of Chicago.

“I think that you have to take care of yourself first,” said the former officer, who asked to remain anonymous.

Self-preservation is one reason the former CPD officer recently left the department with less than eight years on the job.

“I was frustrated with the work schedule, and being put in unexpected situations. Also, I think Chicago police officers are underpaid for what they do,” he said.

The former officer said he knows of at least 10 others who’ve done the same in the past year; forced overtime and canceled days off, along with plummeting CPD ranks, all factors.

“I knew I was just going to be put in worse working situations and conditions from there on, because they were going to be short-staffed; and the department and the people who run it, the politicians, they thought that that was an okay situation for officers to be in,” the former officer said.

He is one of many leaving the Chicago Police Department for smaller departments, or leaving policing altogether.

That, in addition to a large number of retirements, has sparked a policing crisis in Chicago, according to Ald. Anthony Beale (9th).

“People don’t want to be the police. The police don’t want to be the police,” Beale said.

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Beale recently asked city Budget Director Susie Park for the expected number of sworn officer vacancies on Jan. 1, 2022.  In a memo, Park puts that number at an expected 908 vacancies, not counting any unexpected resignations or retirements.

But Beale said that number is actually much higher.

“People fail to realize last year we wiped out 614 vacancies out of last year’s budget, and when we talk about that we’re down 1,000 officers, we’re actually down 1,600 officers.

The city’s policing shortage isn’t just a result of officers leaving or retiring. Many aldermen said, even if the city wanted to fill all its current officer vacancies, it couldn’t.

At a budget hearing this week, Police Supt. David Brown told committee members about 5,000 people have applied to Chicago’s police academy this year, compared to around 30,000 in years past.

Beale believes there are less than 100 cadets in the academy right now.

“By the time you get people to take the test, pass the test, go through the background check, and get in the academy, by then we’re into 2023 going into 2024,” Beale said.

The alderman believes hiring must go hand-in-hand with initiatives to help combat root causes of violence.

But for the former officer who spoke to CBS 2, it reinforces the move to a smaller department.

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“I enjoy having a consistent schedule. I work longer shifts now to have more days off, and it utilizes officers for better manpower to run a department, which I think is smarter, and it benefits officers more,” he said.