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Chicago Police Supt. Terry Hillard may add to officers on beat patrol

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

Interim Chicago Police Supt. Terry Hillard is chipping away at the legacy of his predecessor — Jody Weis — by changing the department’s command structure and preparing to move cops to the patrol division from specialized units, sources said Wednesday.

Hillard is considering moving 100 officers from the department’s 260-officer Mobile Strike Force back to the patrol division. He is also looking to move officers from other special citywide units to patrol, sources said.

That would be a big step toward Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel’s campaign pledge to put 1,000 beat officers on the street.

Mark Donahue, outgoing president of the Fraternal Order of Police, said he was all for the changes after a two-year hiring slowdown that has left the police department 2,300 officers a day short of authorized strength.

“The lodge has taken the position for quite some time that the department needs to address the manpower shortage in district law enforcement,” Donahue said. “The last audit we were able to do showed on average that manpower in the districts was down about 16 percent.”

Hillard, 67, was appointed three weeks ago as a temporary replacement for Weis, whose $310,000-a-year contract expired. Hillard, the superintendent from 1998 to 2003, will stay on until Emanuel hires a permanent top cop. Emanuel takes office May 16.

Hillard and a spokesman didn’t return calls seeking comment. When he was appointed interim superintendent by Mayor Daley on March 1, Hillard told reporters he was “only a stop gap, and that’s it.”

But the same day, Hillard hinted at changes when he told Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed that Weis “took the good cops and put them in special sections and units. That’s not right.”

Hillard said the patrol division was “decimated” under Weis, who reassigned beat officers to special units such as the Mobile Strike Force and Targeted Response Unit.

Those units were the centerpiece of Weis’ strategy to target crime “hot spots” by using roving forces and up-to-date intelligence.

Crime went down in nearly every major category during Weis’ three-year tenure. But so did morale among rank-and-file officers who didn’t like that their superintendent was a former FBI supervisor hired to clean up misconduct.

Sources said one of Hillard’s first priorities as interim superintendent was to return the department to the chain of command that existed before Weis took office in 2008.

Weis’ chief of staff Michael Masters — a civilian with a law degree from Harvard University — had served as one of the main gatekeepers for Weis’ command staff. Weis didn’t rely as heavily on his two assistant superintendents, James Jackson and Beatrice Cuello.

Hillard has returned to a system in which the police brass report directly to Cuello, who is in charge of administration, and Jackson, who runs law-enforcement operations.

Some of Hillard’s moves have the whiff of a purge. Masters left the department last week and Robert Roman, a commander assigned to Weis’ office, was forced to resign Wednesday, sources said. Other Weis loyalists such as Cmdr. Frank Gross have been moved out of the superintendent’s office and placed in districts.

Hillard has also ordered the SWAT team to return take-home cars provided under Weis, sources said. Weis, a former SWAT member in the FBI, felt the cars would allow members to get to hostage situations and other emergencies quickly, the sources said.

Former Deputy Supt. Charles Ram­sey is considered a front-runner to become Chicago’s next top cop. Ramsey is now chief of the Philadelphia police force. Emanuel has praised Ramsey, but says he will await the results of a search before picking the next superintendent.

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