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City to move 200 police officers from desk jobs to street patrol

Mayor Rahm Emanuel Police Supt. Garry McCarthy announced redeployment 200 Chicago Police officers Thursday.  |  NBC5

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Supt. Garry McCarthy announced the redeployment of 200 Chicago Police officers Thursday. | NBC5

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Updated: March 2, 2013 12:02PM



Mayor Rahm Emanuel acknowledged Thursday that Chicago needs more police officers on the street, but he won’t ask taxpayers to foot the bill until he’s certain existing officers are being used effectively.

Toward that end, Emanuel and Police Supt. Garry McCarthy announced plans to shift 200 more sworn officers from desk jobs to street duty and assign them to “area saturation” teams already focusing on the gang violence that now has a face: 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton.

The promising sophomore at King College Prep was shot in the back Tuesday afternoon while hanging out with a group of friends at Harsh Park in the South Side’s North Kenwood neighborhood. Authorities on Wednesday increased the reward to $24,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killer of the teen, who had once appeared in an anti-gang PSA.

Hadiya’s murder has shined another unflattering national spotlight on Chicago because she was an honors student, a volleyball player and a majorette who had just performed with her high school band at President Barack Obama’s second inauguration.

“You don’t ask the taxpayers to pay for additional cops until you’ve made sure you’re using every cop on the payroll today effectively and strategically,” Emanuel told a news conference at Area Central headquarters, 5101 S. Wentworth.

“A police officer who’s been trained to do police work is doing clerical, administrative work behind a desk. Now, why would you ask the taxpayers for more when you’re not using what you have today well or strategically? . . I’m not gonna ask the taxpayers for additional resources until Garry and Al [Wysinger, first deputy] and the entire team have combed through the bureaucracy.”

Emanuel campaigned on a promise to solve a severe manpower shortage by adding 1,000 officers not now on the street, 250 of them newly hired with funds generated by tax-increment financing districts.

But 500 of the officers he has returned to beat patrol have been reshuffled from the same deck of cards. They come from specialized units now disbanded. An additional 570 officers were shifted from desk jobs to street duty.

On Thursday, 200 more officers were taken out of that desk-jockey group, doubling area saturation teams that replaced the Mobile Strike Force, which McCarthy disbanded. But, there’s a difference: what the superintendent calls “geographic integrity.” Instead of swarming in, making mass arrests and leaving, they stay in the same area.

“It is the same objective [as] the strike force: saturating an area. Before a flame becomes a fire, you put it out. So, while it’s structurally and accountability-wise different, it has the same impact,” Emanuel said.

Last week, Inspector General Joe Ferguson suggested that the city could save up to $16.6 million a year and put 292 police officers on the street by shifting sworn officers from clerical and administrative jobs to street duty.

Emanuel credited the IG’s report with driving Thursday’s announcement, although the political heat generated by Hadiya’s murder may well have moved up the timetable.

Sixty of the officers will be moved immediately: 30 to Area Central and 15 each to Areas North and South. Additional officers will be transferred in February. All 200 will be moved from department headquarters and district offices by March 31.

Emanuel’s plan to shift 200 more sworn officers from desk jobs to street duty did not impress Fraternal Order of Police President Mike Shields.

Shields called it “more smoke and mirrors” and “policing by press conference” from a mayor who balanced his first budget by eliminating 1,400 police vacancies.

Shields has been beating the drum for Emanuel to hire more police officers — beyond the 500 officers the mayor has pledged to hire this year to keep pace with retirements.

“They’ve been talking for years about taking desk jobs away. [But] there are certain functions on the administrative side that can only be done by those who know the department. That’s sworn officers,” Shields said. “They can claim they can have civilians to do these jobs, but it will take three civilians to do one Chicago police officer’s task.”

He added, “I’ve been screaming about the manpower problem and they’ve done everything but correct the manpower problem. The city needs to get serious about hiring instead of merely replacing what few officers we have left.”

Shields also accused the mayor of “micromanaging” the Police Department from his office on the fifth floor of City Hall.

“We’ve seen the results of what happens when Emanuel wants answers every five minutes. Look at the homicide rate. Let us do our jobs. Hiring civilians to do police tasks won’t do a single thing about the homicide rate,” he said.

McCarthy countered that in 2006 and 2007, when the Police Department was at its manpower peak, “there were 200 more murders” in Chicago.

“What criminology has shown is that, the size of the department certainly helps. That’s why we’re looking for every body that we have. But, what is so much more important is what those officers are doing when they’re in the field. If we’re hiring officers to be clerks, we’re being inefficient,” he said.

“If we’re hiring officers to put them in the places at the times when crime is most likely to happen and giving them tools — quality of life enforcement, stop-and-frisk, gang violence reduction strategy, gang audits that identify locations where retaliation is most likely to happen — those are the steps that will reduce crime,” McCarthy said. “It’s not simply a matter of X number of officers mean X amount of crime reduction. It’s so much more complicated than that.”

Shields promptly disputed McCarthy’s claim. He noted that Chicago had 471 homicides in 2006 and 448 murders in 2007.



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