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Mayor Rahm Emanuel shifts 500 police officers, but union isn’t impressed

Mayor Rahm Emanuel shakes hands with officers Tuesday after announcing thhe's shifting 500 cops from specialized units beats high-crime districts.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel shakes hands with officers Tuesday after announcing that he's shifting 500 cops from specialized units to beats in high-crime districts. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

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Updated: August 31, 2011 12:38AM

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday delivered what he called a “down payment” on his promise to put 1,000 more police officers on the street — by shifting 500 officers from specialized units to high-crime districts.

But a union leader dismissed the summer crime plan as a reshuffling of the deck that fails to deliver on Emanuel’s campaign promise and misleads the public.

“I believe in the beat officer. . . . That’s where you fight crime — not in . . . top-heavy specialized units. That’s what we became: a top-heavy, specialized unit Police Department,” Emanuel said.

The 500 officers will be primarily drawn from two elite units: the Mobile Strike Force and Targeted Response Unit.

Starting Sunday and continuing for 90 days, 400 of those officers will be reassigned to high-crime districts on the city’s South and West sides: Grand Crossing, South Chicago, Calumet, Gresham, Englewood, Chicago Lawn, Harrison and Austin.

The remaining 100 officers will be unevenly distributed to five police areas based on crime statistics to respond to “flare-ups,” Emanuel said.

Acting Police Supt. Garry McCarthy called it a “shift in managerial philosophy” that will usher in a new era of accountability, using the CompStat model he championed in New York City.

“The terms `accountability’ and `authority’ you’re going to hear over and over and over again. Commanders will be held accountable for reducing crime in their districts and their areas. This is putting the resources in their hands to make them do it,” McCarthy said.

Fraternal Order of Police President Mike Shields argued that what the Chicago Police Department desperately needs is to hire more officers — not play a game of checkers with the officers it already has.

Emanuel campaigned on a promise to put 1,000 more police officers on the streets of Chicago. He hoped to accomplish that by: hiring 250 officers with funds generated by tax-increment–financing (TIF) districts; using police cadets to free officers from desk duty; cracking down on medical abuses and renegotiating a policy that allows officers to take 365 sick days every two years.

“To say this is 500 more officers on the street — no, it’s not. Don’t mislead the public. There are no more police officers today than there were yesterday. They’re taking 500 officers as if they were never on the street and putting them into beat cars. They’re acting as if they were assigned to some desk duty,” Shields said.

“Officers in the Targeted Response Unit and Mobile Strike Force are some of the hardest working officers on the street. Whether they’re in the units or not, they’re still gonna work hard. That’s not the issue. The issue is, we desperately need to hire more police officers. Until they do the hiring, we’re gonna be low on manpower, no matter how you slice it.”

Asked twice whether he still intends to honor his campaign promise to put 1,000 additional officers on the street, Emanuel appeared to hedge. His staff subsequently argued that Emanuel promised 1,000 new officers “on the beat” and that, by that measure, he’s half-way home.

That’s not how Ald. Latasha Thomas (17th) sees it. “I actually think we’re still at 1,000 [and counting] because those were supposed to be new officers, right? But, I need to see how we pay for them,” Thomas said after joining Emanuel at a news conference at the Gresham District, 7808 S. Halsted.

Ald. Howard Brookins (21st), newly-elected chairman of the City Council’s Black Caucus, said he would have preferred former Supt. Jody Weis’ politically explosive plan to permanently redeploy officers to high-crime districts.

But, Brookins said he welcomes an influx of beat officers to replace, what he called a “para-military strike force that would swoop in, terrorize the community and swoop out again.”

“This is a start. Absolutely, I’m happy that there [will be] more police in the community and we’ll give the plan a chance. But, if it appears that it’s not working, I’ll be in the mayor’s ear again,” Brookins said.

A two-year hiring slowdown has left the Chicago Police Department more than 2,300 officers a day short of authorized strength, counting vacancies, sick leave and limited duty. Former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s final budget called for hiring up to 200 new officers, but not a single one of those officers has entered the police academy.

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