Chicago dispatcher warns of safety concern in city due to police shortage


The Chicago dispatcher who was widely praised for his calm demeanor while assisting officers who came under fire over the summer issued a stark warning on social media last week, saying at least one district is dangerously understaffed.

Keith Thornton Jr., the dispatcher, took to Facebook to inform followers that there is a staffing problem in the 16th District, despite assurances from city leaders, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Chicago police investigate the shooting of rapper FBG Duck in the first block of East Oak Street in the Gold Coast neighborhood on Aug. 4, 2020. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

“If you are a Chicagoan, living here or doing business here, even just visiting as a tourist here, your safety is compromised and in jeopardy,” he said according to the paper.

The city’s police department did not immediately respond to an after-hours email from Fox News. 

Chicago Police Department officer Ella French was killed in August. Thornton Jr. was credited with his effort to help two Chicago officer who came under fire.

Chicago Police Department officer Ella French was killed in August. Thornton Jr. was credited with his effort to help two Chicago officer who came under fire.
(Facebook)

ABC 7 Chicago reported that Thornton posted a 30-minute-long Facebook Live video and claimed that on the night of December 23, nine of the 14 police units assigned to the district were down.

“When I’m getting text messages from officers that they’re scared and afraid for their safety because they’re working by themselves, and then the beat next to them—that would normally back them up—they’re not even there because the cars are down. That’s a problem,” he told the station.

Thornton received praise for how he handled the call after two Chicago officers were shot on Aug. 7, including Ella French, who was killed. Her partner Carlos Yanez Jr. was shot in the head and lost an eye. His father told the paper at the time that he has two bullets lodged in his brain.

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The ABC report said the 16th Police District is the largest in the city and said—like other areas—the district lost officers to retirements, which have outpaced new hires. The report said there will be a meeting between city leaders and David Brown, the city’s police superintendent, to discuss the issue.

The Associated Press contributed to this report