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Rahm confident in McCarthy but progress not 'good enough'

Updated: July 17, 2013 8:26AM

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Tuesday he has “absolute confidence” in Garry McCarthy, but the progress Chicago’s police superintendent is making in combating gang violence is “not good enough.”

The July 4th weekend was marred by a bloodbath that saw the Chicago Sun-Times tally 38 separate shooting incidents from Wednesday evening through Sunday afternoon, including 10 homicides.

McCarthy responded by pointing to a 25 percent drop in shootings and a 29 percent reduction in homicides through June 30 and said he’s “absolutely positive” that he continues to “enjoy the mayor’s confidence.”

On Tuesday, Emanuel affirmed that vote of confidence—with a giant caveat that holds McCarthy’s feet to the fire.

“I have absolute confidence in Garry McCarthy. But, with my confidence also comes a direction: We are making progress, but the progress is not good enough,” the mayor said.

“A 15 percent drop in overall crime in the city, a 25 percent drop in shootings, a 26 or 27 percent drop in homicides. But, that’s not good enough. We can do better—and we need to do better.”

Although police overtime was $10.5 million in the hole before the traditional summer crime wave, Emanuel said, “We will make sure that we have the resources to continue on the strategy, but make the type of changes constantly to bring a level of safety throughout the city of Chicago that parts of the city are constantly experiencing.”

The Chicago Sun-Times reported Sunday that the Chicago Police Department shelled out $21.3 million for overtime in April and May, putting overtime spending for 2013 in a $10.5 million hole before the traditional summer crime wave.

Figures provided to the newspaper Friday in response to a Freedom of Information request are particularly troubling because overtime payments run 30 days behind.

That means the Police Department spent $42.5 million on overtime through May long before temperatures started to rise, driving people outside and increasing the number of conflicts and shootings.

The Sun-Times reported May 3 that the Police Department had already burned through two-thirds of its 2013 overtime budget during the first three months of the year.

Some of that $21 million tab went to officers working in “Operation Impact,” an overtime program that started in February with 200 officers-a-night flooding 20 of Chicago’s most violent crime zones and doubled in March to 400 officers-a-night.

The new numbers double that spending—and leave the Police Department in a $10.5 million overtime hole through the first five months of the year.

Overtime paid in April for expenses incurred in March was $10.8 million, with $7.1 million of it going to the so-called “violence reduction initiative.” Spending continued at roughly the same pace in May, with $10.5 million spent overall and $6.7 million paid to officers who flooded crime “hot spots.”

Although overtime spending was $10.5 million in the red well before summer, City Hall sources cited three factors for why they are not overly concerned.

An uptick in tax revenue driven by a number of large property sales in the downtown area likely means Chicago will close the books on 2013 with $25 million in added revenue.

Police payroll expenses have dropped by $10 million because of unexpected reductions in duty availability and other supplemental pay and an increase in the number of officers banking compensatory time.

And the police academy continues to churn out recruits—with nearly 400 graduates already and 600 expected by fall–who will be paid straight-time to go on foot patrol in the 20 hot zones, gradually reducing the amount of overtime.

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