‘Chicago PD’: Why Some Fans Are Confused By the Intelligence Unit

by Taylor Cunningham

All fans know that Chicago PD follows the day-to-day lives of officers who work for The Windy City’s intelligence unit. But most don’t quite understand what the intelligence unit is.

While the series makes it clear that the One Chicago team is unlike any other, it doesn’t do a great job at explaining why. From the episodes, it seems like Voight, Halstead, and Burgess are just like all other police officers. And that has a lot of people confused. In fact, fans are so stumped by the supposed intelligence unit that they actually created a Reddit thread to try and make sense of it.

In a subreddit appropriately titled “What is the ‘Intelligence Unit’ exactly?” a user called out the writers by sharing the obvious. Every other series that surrounds an elite procedural team, there is a clear distinction between them and a standard officer of the law—but not in Chicago PD.

“I don’t understand why this unit [is] so special. With SVU you understand they investigate sex crimes…NCIS navy crimes,” u/kush80w90gl5 wrote. “But what does Intelligence do exactly, they do drug stuff often but how is that different from Narcotics?”

“To me,” they continued, “intelligence is compiling information and should involve single cases investigated over a long period of time. But they have a new case each week.”

The ‘Chicago PD’ Officers Rank Higher Than Most

Some people guessed that the unit is different than most because of its heavy undercover work. Though, many fans noted that the story has turned away from that recently. And other people believe they’re unque because they tackle the city’s hardest crime, such as “organized crime, drug trafficking, and high-profile murders.”

But to most, none of the guesses really added up to an answer.

In reality, there isn’t much difference between the Chicago PD officers and those who work inside your average police department, at least in terms of what they do. Apparently, the series only placed them inside an intelligence unit to signify that the characters rank righer than most.

In a Quora thread, a commenter named Les Smulevitz, who shows he has a Masters in Police and Law Enforcement says that Chicago really does have a special intelligence unit. But it’s not anything like Dick Wolf’s creation.

In the actual unit, officers only collect intelligence on criminal operations. And their information helps the prosecution team. Obviously, the fictional cops do a lot more than that.

“The Wolfe productions TV intel unit is more like, but not much like for entertainment purposes, a district tactical/plainclothes team,” Smulevitz wrote.