City of Chicago Office of the Inspector General

11/16/2021 | Press release | Archived content

OIG Advisory Regarding the Chicago Fire Department’s Management and Enforcement of Protocols for Missing or Stolen Badges

OIG reviewed Chicago Police Department (CPD) reports of Chicago Fire Department (CFD) badges purportedly lost or stolen from January 1, 2015, through June 30, 2020. Overall, 340 CFD members reported their badges stolen or lost to CPD during this period. Approximately, 79.7% of the reports--271 of the total 340--came from retiring CFD members. Approximately, 22.6% of all retiring members who reported their badges stolen or missing to CPD did so within 6 months prior to retirement.

This pattern of a large number of badges reported lost or stolen, as CFD members retire, suggests a number of possible causes, including: 1) that CFD members are committing theft of City property (badges), filing false police reports to cover up the theft, and thereby enabling themselves to retain their CFD badges upon retirement (which since 2018 they are able to replace at a cost lower than the cost of purchasing a retirement badge), or 2) that CFD members may be misplacing their badges and not reporting them missing or stolen until it is time to return the badges to CFD at retirement. Both scenarios constitute control and misconduct concerns. Theft of City property and filing false police reports are crimes. Failing to immediately report a missing or stolen CFD badge is a violation of CFD general orders and the City of Chicago Personnel Rules.

Failure to properly account for the CFD badges is a control risk concern. CFD badges designate the holder as having official authority conferred by the City. The purpose of the badge ends when the holder leaves CFD or retires. The current retirement process allows individuals to hold onto official CFD badges through false and fraudulent pretenses, permitting former CFD members to retain these indicia of authority even after leaving City service. Further, CFD has no control over what happens to these "lost" or "stolen" badges, including whether the former CFD member gives the badge to another person.

OIG suggested that CFD should develop and implement procedures to ensure:

  • CFD-HR collects badges from each retiring member;
  • members report a lost or stolen badge and notify CFD within 24 hours through the submission of a CFD Form 2/2A to CFD-HR, with an attached complete and filed police report to CFD-HR;
  • CFD-HR review each Form 2/2A and complete police report, track such reports, and cumulatively review the tracked data for trends or operational concerns;
  • CFD-HR provide to CFD-IAD and OIG the member-filed Form 2/2A with attached police report within 72 hours of receipt;
  • members who lose or destroy a badge pay the cost of replacement;
  • members who do not pay the cost of replacement are fined, disciplined, and/or subject to wage garnishment for the replacement cost; and
  • condition member eligibility for a retirement badge on the tender at the time of retirement of the member's active duty badge.

Further, CFD should issue department-wide communication refreshing all members on the general orders requiring that they either return their CFD badge at retirement or purchase a retirement badge, and ensure that retiring members are aware of their option to purchase a retirement badge. The department-wide communication should also expressly note to members that filing a false police report is both itself a crime and a violation of department policy and code of conduct.