Chicago Sun-Times


- BY FRAN SPIELMAN, CITY HALL RE­PORTER fspiel­man@sun­ | @fspiel­man Police brutality · Crime · Chicago Police Department · Lori Lightfoot · New York City · York City F.C. · New York · Los Angeles · Rahm Emanuel · Young Buck · Congressional Black Caucus · Aland Islands

The Chicago Po­lice De­part­ment has 847 sworn va­can­cies that could be re­duced to chip away at a $1.25 bil­lion short­fall in the city’s 2021 bud­get, al­der­men were told Thurs­day.

Mayor Lori Light­foot has, so far, re­sisted the move­ment to de­fund the po­lice that has been sweep­ing the na­tion since the death of Ge­orge Floyd. Chicago is the na­tion’s largest city to give the cold shoul­der to those de­mands af­ter po­lice cuts an­nounced in New York City and Los Angeles.

But that doesn’t mean the Chicago Po­lice De­part­ment’s $1.7 bil­lion bud­get will be spared from the bud­get ax.

Dur­ing a joint meeting of the City Council’s Bud­get and Public Safety com­mit­tees fo­cused ex­clu­sively on CPD spend­ing, Bud­get Direc­tor Susie Park told al­der­men there are 847 sworn po­lice va­can­cies and all are un­der the microscope to chip away at the short­fall.

“That’s part of the dis­cus­sion we’re hav­ing. What is the right num­ber of of­fi­cers? What do we need to meet op­er­a­tions? We’re look­ing at ev­ery­one’s va­can­cies, to be hon­est. CPD is no dif­fer­ent,” Park said.

For­mer Mayor Rahm Emanuel bal­anced his first bud­get by elim­i­nat­ing more than 1,400 po­lice va­can­cies, merg­ing po­lice and fire head­quar­ters, re­duc­ing po­lice and de­tec­tive ar­eas from five to three and clos­ing three dis­trict po­lice sta­tions.

That started a down­ward spi­ral that, cou­pled with at­tri­tion, forced the mayor to rely on run­away over­time when shoot­ings and mur­ders spiked.

In Septem­ber 2016, Emanuel re­versed field, em­bark­ing on a two-year hir­ing surge that added 1,000 ad­di­tional of­fi­cers.

The stay-at-home shut­down trig­gered by the coronaviru­s vir­tu­ally shut down the po­lice academy. So far this year, there have been just two classes, one of 50 re­cruits, one of 40. Two more are planned this year — not enough to keep pace with the 464 re­tire­ments al­ready this year.

Yet an­other sore thumb is po­lice over­time, which bal­looned to $139.5 mil­lion last year.

Un­der pres­sure from Light­foot, Po­lice Supt. David Brown or­dered all over­time to be ap­proved by deputy chiefs and above.

Park ac­knowl­edged that edict went out the win­dow af­ter the civil un­rest that de­volved into two dev­as­tat­ing rounds of loot­ing.

Over­time now is on pace to hit $140 mil­lion this year.

Ken Wil­liams, newly ap­pointed ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the City Council’s Of­fice of Fi­nan­cial Anal­y­sis, sur­prised al­der­men with a pro­posal to cut $55 mil­lion from the po­lice bud­get.

It would elim­i­nate such trea­sured po­lice perks as the uni­form al­lowance, tu­ition re­im­burse­ment and ed­u­ca­tion, spe­cialty pay, su­per­vi­sor quar­terly pay and re­im­burse­ment for phys­i­cal ex­ams.

Wil­liams also sug­gested hir­ing civil­ians to fill po­lice ad­min­is­tra­tor jobs and of­fi­cer li­a­bil­ity in­sur­ance to re­duce po­lice set­tle­ments. That change would re­quire changes in state law.

But Park dis­missed those sav­ings as un­re­al­is­tic — at least for the fore­see­able fu­ture, be­cause they in­volve “con­trac­tual items,” and the re­cently rat­i­fied con­tracts with Chicago fire­fight­ers and po­lice su­per­vi­sors pre­serve those perks.

With homi­cides up 50% from a year ago, any ef­fort to re­duce po­lice va­can­cies is al­most cer­tain to meet heavy re­sis­tance.

“You’re look­ing at the po­ten­tial for a lot of va­can­cies in dis­trict law en­force­ment. … We have to fig­ure out some way to fill these va­can­cies back in the dis­tricts,” said West Side Ald. Ja­son Ervin (28th), chair­man of the City Council’s Black Cau­cus.

South Side Ald. Michelle Har­ris (8th) added: “With all of the vi­o­lence break­ing out on the South and the West Sides of the city — in my uni­verse, we’re not ask­ing for de-fund­ing. We’re ask­ing for more” po­lice.

But Har­ris ac­cused CPD of wast­ing mil­lions by fund­ing vi­o­lence preven­tion or­ga­ni­za­tions that have “no im­pact” what­so­ever.

For­mer Public Safety Com­mit­tee Chair­man Ariel Re­boyras (30th) com­plained po­lice of­fi­cers were “still be­ing pulled from dis­tricts to move them to other dis­tricts,” in­clud­ing down­town. That kind of rob­bing Peter to pay Paul “should not con­tinue to hap­pen.”

“Yes­ter­day alone, we only had about, maybe if we’re lucky, a dozen of­fi­cers work­ing in one of our dis­tricts on the North­west Side. … We need to put per­son­nel where they be­long. All it takes is one time, one is­sue, one in­stance where [con­stituents says], ‘Where are the po­lice of­fi­cers?’ “Re­boyras said.

Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Susan Lee told al­der­men the Light­foot ad­min­is­tra­tion is exploring a “co-re­spon­der model” in which po­lice of­fi­cers and so­cial work­ers re­spond to­gether to do­mes­tic vi­o­lence and men­tal health calls.

North Side Ald. Maria Had­den (49th) was unim­pressed.

“You’ve got peo­ple want­ing to de­fund the po­lice by 75%. You’ve got folks who want more cops in their com­mu­nity. What we all want is public safety for res­i­dents of Chicago and I don’t think we’re re­ally get­ting to the meat of that. When are we gonna have that con­ver­sa­tion?” Had­den said.

Many al­der­men were dis­ap­pointed that the Chicago Po­lice De­part­ment was not rep­re­sented at Thurs­day’s hear­ing. Bud­get Chair­man Pat Dow­ell (3rd) said that’s be­cause the hear­ing was on the num­bers. It did not fo­cus on po­lice op­er­a­tions.

 ?? GETTY IM­AGES ?? A Chicago Po­lice De­part­ment grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mony at Navy Pier in 2017.
GETTY IM­AGES A Chicago Po­lice De­part­ment grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mony at Navy Pier in 2017.

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