Mayor, McCarthy go on police ride-along in violent areas
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter September 23, 2013 12:21PM
Updated: September 23, 2013 12:30PM
For at least the second time since taking office, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has gone on a nighttime “ride-along” with Chicago Police officers, this time in two of Chicago’s most violent districts.
It happened Sunday night when Emanuel and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy joined officers regularly assigned to the Gresham and Grand Crossing districts.
The mayor’s office disclosed the ride-along without revealing details.
Shortly after taking office, Emanuel did a similar ride-along with a Gang Enforcement Unit and came away with a few suggestions on how to sharpen the Police Department’s focus in the never-ending war on gangs.
Emanuel refused to reveal specific changes proposed by members of the Homan Square-based Gang Enforcement Unit, nor did he share details of the “one incident” that he said occurred.
But, he subsequently convinced an emotionally torn City Council to authorize tickets for people caught in Chicago with small amounts of marijuana to free officers to pursue gang and gun violence. The suggestion emanated from gang officers involved in the ride-along.
When you think of a ride-along, you inevitably envision a reality show such as “Cops,” where traffic stops, arrests and takedowns are captured on video in dramatic fashion.
But, Emanuel said his first ride-along was more about learning “firsthand what our police officers are facing . . . what they see, how they organize.”
There was also a public relations side benefit. Although City Hall did not alert the news media in advance, the mayor’s press office did release a photograph showing Emanuel — wearing an open-collared dress shirt and no tie — talking in an office with plainclothes gang officers wearing bullet-proof vests.
Emanuel said he came away from the experience “immensely impressed with the professionalism” of the officers he accompanied. He noted that the gang unit had an “esprit de corps” that he found unique and palpable.
“They know they’re facing some of the toughest situations on our streets. They’re facing the gang-bangers, the drugs and the entire combination. And they are the most important element we have to protecting our citizens so kids can go play on playgrounds [and] residents can sit on their stoop and watch their kids play,” the mayor said then.
“For too long, the gang-bangers acted like those streets are their shooting gallery. No. Those streets and those playgrounds belong to the children, and they belong to families. And the Police Department is about putting in place the proper resources — like a curfew, like more officers — to make sure those areas are safe.”
On Monday morning, the mayor and his police superintendent were back together again–at a Navy Pier graduation ceremony for the latest class of police recruits. Like their recent counterparts, the officers are expected to be immediately assigned to foot patrols in crime “hot spots.” The move is aimed at reducing police overtime that is already tens of millions over budget.
© 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.