With about 1,400 vacancies, the Chicago Police Department has a critical shortage of officers. Perhaps that’s one reason rank-and-file cops are upset with police brass for assigning a cop to patrol a privately owned downtown building.

The Better Government Association and the 2 Investigators checked out the tip that infuriates residents and business owners in high-crime areas.

“We used to have beat officers,” said Roderick Pierce, the owner of Englewood Hardware on the South Side. “I don’t know where they went, but we used to have them walk the beats.”

“This area needs policemen on a daily, and an hourly basis,” said Loretta Langford, who lives with her children in Englewood.

In Englewood and other high-crime neighborhoods, residents are begging for more cops on the street.

Cop assigned to private building in LoopSo, the 2 Investigators and the Better Government Association were surprised to learn the Chicago Police Department has assigned an officer to patrol the privately owned Merchandise Mart along the Chicago River downtown. His name is Joseph Pagan and he is paid about $78,000 a year.

The 2 Investigators watched day after day as Officer Pagan ambled his way around the commercial space at the Merchandise Mart.

“What are you supposed to be doing here?” we asked Pagan.

“Contact News Affairs,” Pagan said.

A police spokeswoman said a Chicago police officer has been assigned to the building for roughly 30 years. Pagan has been there for three.

The department said the Merchandise Mart needs a cop to ensure the public safety of approximately 30,000 people who pass through the building a day — over one million a year — including commuters riding CTA lines that run into the building.

“His presence minimizes issues of aggressive panhandling, robbery and pickpocketing of commuters entering the building from the CTA,” the police spokeswoman said.

But in his three years working at the Merchandise Mart, Officer Pagan has made no arrests.

A Merchandise Mart spokeswoman said the building employs its own staff of about 20 private security guards.

In addition, the CTA has its own security force.

“This may be one of the last vestiges of someone deployed where they’re not really needed for public safety,” said Andy Shaw, the BGA’s president and CEO.

“I don’t know the logic of them having a police officer, unless you’ve got some kind of connections, or juice. … But I wish I had that connection down here, where we could have police officers walking the beats of Englewood,” Pierce said of his neighborhood.

Until recently, the Kennedy family owned or ran the Merchandise Mart complex. The Merchandise Mart spokeswoman said they have never asked for a police officer to be assigned there.

“It would seem to me that an office building populated by mostly white-collar individuals, who are not super crime prone, probably is not as important as some of the tough neighborhoods in Chicago,” Shaw said.

“Look at the murder rate in this area,” Langford said about Englewood.

“It’s ridiculous. Why would you patrol a building, and you haven’t made an arrest, when you can come out here and do a job that needs to be done?”

The police spokeswoman said clout has nothing to do with the assignment of an officer at the Merchandise Mart.

This story was written and reported by the BGA’s Robert Herguth and Patrick Rehkamp, and Pam Zekman of CBS2. To reach them, call (312) 821-9030 or email rherguth@bettergov.org.