Chicago SWAT Teams Pay Dispute with City, Could Affect Response Time

The Chicago Police SWAT team is warning police brass that starting next week, they’ll no longer take their gear home with them, and emergency response times will likely suffer.

The SWAT officers say at the end of their shifts, they’ll drop their gear at a West Side police facility, which they would have to return to on their way to an emergency.

It’s all part of an ongoing pay dispute between the SWAT team and the city.

“The issue is the city, or the department is requiring us to take our gear home,” said Chicago Police Officer Robert Bartlett, who is the plaintiff.

Three years ago, Bartlett, then a member of the SWAT team, filed a lawsuit claiming that SWAT officers weren’t getting the pay they were entitled to. Every night they take home large amounts of gear, often in their personal vehicles.

“Basically, you’re still working until you get home and put that gear away. So they should be compensating for, they should be compensating us for that, but they won’t,” Bartlett said.

The department does provide some squad cars, but SWAT officers say they’re run-down vehicles where they can’t safely store gear overnight.

SWAT officers say the city’s most recent move in the dispute is to tell them that they don’t have to take their gear home with them every night, and that instead they can store it here at the Homan Square police complex on the city’s West Side.

SWAT officers say they’ll start doing that on May 26, even though having to drive to Homan Square will greatly delay their response times. The SWAT team sent a memo to their superiors, saying they want the city to be aware of the consequences.

“The carnage could be worse, more deaths, more injuries,” Bartlett said.

A police spokesperson says the department is committed to public safety and that SWAT officers will still be on patrol and on call 24 hours a day. The department is also looking at giving the SWAT unit some additional take-home vehicles.

Bartlett’s lawsuit is a class action and he is the representative for about 100 current and former SWAT officers.

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