Chicago Police

CPD Chief Offers Advice to Chicagoans as He Prepares for Retirement

Waller will finish his final shift as chief on Aug. 15, passing the torch instead to his son, who is also a Chicago police officer

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After 34 years with the Chicago Police Department, Chief Fred Waller has decided to retire.

"I feel like I'm leaving when there's still a lot of work to be done," Waller told NBC 5 as he prepares to leave the only job he's known for the last three decades.

It's not lost on him that his departure comes at a time with the city needs his experience and leadership.

"It's a grueling thing," he said. "It's probably just time and maybe I can help out in some other ways."

Waller grew up in Chicago's Engelwood and Roseland neighborhoods, both of which are plagued by violence today.

His road to becoming an officer was an unexpected one. Waller said he scored so well on the CPD exam, it simply made sense.

"It just kind of fell to me that way and I just fell in love with the job," he said.

But over the years, that love was undoubtedly tested.

Looking back, his worst and best moments on the job are the same: they day two Chicago officers were struck by a train.

"One of the most horrific things we've ever seen," he said. "The commanders, the deputy chiefs and chiefs were all in white gear to pick up the remains of those officers. You put aside any differences that you had with anyone and it was probably one of my proudest moments."

But no career on Chicago's police force could end without acknowledging the violence that continues to plague the city.

In July alone, homicides were up 139% compared to last year and shootings had increased by 75%. Among the wounded were 58 children.

Waller said there's a new level of brazenness in recent crimes, a claim highlighted by the Gold Coast shooting of a Chicago rapper in broad daylight.

"It speaks to me as far as lack of accountability," Waller said. "I don't fear it because I know police are restricted from chasing. So they're not accountable so those things in broad daylight will happen."

What else can be done? Do police need help?

"The help comes from the community," Waller said. "The people are the silent majority who support the PD and work with the PD behind the scenes - that's where the prevention comes."

He cited beat cops who are working to build relationships daily and working to rescue kids from gangs, but said the city needs more safe spaces and training programs for kids to escape.

"If you can't take those kids out of that gang conflict and gang area, then you don't have anything to offer them," he said.

But that's not to say progress isn't being made.

"Whenever you are on the outside it looks so much worse, but I see all the good things that the officers are doing," he said.

Waller will finish his final shift as chief on Aug. 15, passing the torch instead to his son, who is also a Chicago police officer.

His advice to the Chicago residents he's served for three decades?

"Comply first," he said. "If you feel like you got disrespected, complain later. You'll be alive to tell the story and most times you can come to some common ground with that officer."

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