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Ministers to Daley: Move cops to higher-crime districts

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

A group of black ministers demanded Friday that Mayor Daley and Police Supt. Jody Weis deliver on their joint promise to reallocate police resources from lower-crime neighborhoods to others with higher crime.

Weis promised the reallocation during City Council budget hearings and said it would be delivered by Dec. 31.

On Friday, the ministers released an open letter to Daley and held a news conference outside his office at which they called on the lame-duck mayor to take advantage of the freedom his new status provides and deliver on a promise he made in 2003. They argued that Weis also has nothing to lose, since all four of the major mayoral candidates have vowed to dump him.

“The timing will never be as good as it is now,” said the Rev. Marshall Hatch of New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church. “This is something they are in a position to do without having to worry about political backlash.”

Hatch added: “There’s a qualitative difference between beat officers in the community as a part of the fabric of a community and tactical, SWAT strategies that tend to have the adverse effects of criminalizing large parts of communities of high crime and high risk.”

Pastor Cy Fields of New Landmark Baptist Church urged the mayor, “Stop playing politics with the lives and safety of the neighborhoods and citizens of Chicago. Reallocation of police is smart policing, and it should be done.”

Mayoral press secretary Jacquelyn Heard denied that Daley killed Weis’ plan to shift hundreds of officers. He’s never even seen it, she said.

“On no level has this plan been shared with City Hall,” Heard said. “It exists only in the form of rumors and leaks to the media, presumably meant to exude the appearance of good intentions.

“We can all agree that a change of this significance requires much better handling than that.”

Sources said Weis has had “any number of chances” to share his reallocation plan with the mayor — but never has done so.

“Now, he’s making it appear that the mayor won’t let him do something he hasn’t even asked for permission to do,” one source familiar with the situation said. “It’s all part of this big PR push” by the superintendent to save his job.

On Friday, a police source said the reallocation process was launched in January when some districts were “opened for bidding.”

Officers can voluntarily move to other districts based on seniority. Most of the moves would be from low-crime to high-crime districts, the source said, without providing any specifics about which districts were opened for bidding or how many officers are expected to transfer.

The police source added that the mayor was briefed about the bidding process. Still, the Police Department has kept the public in the dark about the reallocation plan.

A two-year hiring slowdown has left the Police Department short more than 2,300 officers a day of its authorized strength.

Political pressure from aldermen who stand to lose police officers has kept the city from redrawing the boundaries of police beats or otherwise reallocating police resources since the late 1970s.

The Fraternal Order of Police has said it intends to strictly enforce a contract that, according to the union, could sharply limit Weis’ ability to reallocate officers from one police district to another.

Former City Council Police Committee Chairman Anthony Beale (9th) — who was a driving force behind the reallocation before being rewarded with the bigger-budget Transportation Committee — has also been turning up the heat, demanding that Weis deliver on a promise made and broken by at least four of his predecessors.

“This is something that needs to happen before spring and summer kicks in,” Beale told reporters last week. “It’s about saving lives.

“This issue is not dead. It will never be dead until it is rolled out and we have ample resources in communities that need them the most.”

Last month, mayoral front-runner Rahm Emanuel tried to halt any effort to shift police resources. Emanuel said he was determined to “find policies that unite” the city and argued that shifting officers from lower-crime districts in his North Side political base to higher-crime districts on the South Side and the West Side would only divide Chicago.

That prompted an angry reaction from Beale.

“If anybody who’s running for mayor wants to have killing in one part of the city and have officers on the other side of the city not responding to any calls, that’s a problem,” Beale said.

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