Weather Updates

Rahm Emanuel playing numbers game with police

Updated: November 15, 2011 9:36AM

Thanks to the magic of YouTube, it’s a fairly simple matter to go back and take a second look at the speech last January where mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel unveiled his crime platform.

His campaign posted the video at the time, along with this caption: “Rahm Emanuel introduces his crime plan to put 1,000 more cops on our streets and expand after-school programs to keep kids off them.”

If you listen for a few minutes, you can hear Emanuel make this pledge:

“Earlier in this campaign, I proposed using $25 million in TIF funds, unused monies, to put an additional 250 police officers on the streets of our most violent communities. But frankly, 250 more police is not enough. Chicago must do better. Chicago can do better.

“As mayor, I will put 1,000 additional police on the streets working closely with Chicago residents to fight the guns, to fight the gangs and to fight the drugs that now pervade.”

Over the final weeks on the campaign trail, the promise to put “1,000 more police on the streets” became part of Emanuel’s talking point mantra that was drilled into us through daily repetition.

And so it was with some amusement that I heard Police Supt. Garry McCarthy tell the Sun-Times editorial board Friday that he’d never heard the mayor say anything about putting police on the “streets” when he’s been present.

“I heard him say districts. I heard him say beats,” said McCarthy, who of course didn’t get here until after the election.

McCarthy reiterated that in his first four months on the job he has moved 880 police officers “into districts” and promised: “There’s more coming, actually very soon.”

He said this while also stressing it would be “unconscionable” for him to seek to hire more police officers now before he is satisfied he’s using the available manpower at “peak efficiency.”

I took all that as an indication the mayor is on the verge of telling us he and McCarthy have already met or exceeded that “1,000 more police on the streets” pledge, which as I tried to explain a couple weeks ago is just a little too much b.s. to have to swallow whole.

The problem, as Chicago police keep pointing out, is that nearly half the officers Emanuel is counting toward his goal came from two specialized units — the Mobile Task Force and Targeted Response Unit — who were already on the street working in high crime hot spots.

The only difference for those 450 officers is that they are now assigned to districts, where many are patrolling a beat, instead of working for an independent unit.

While this may very well be a better use of manpower, it is not a net gain of police officers.

McCarthy doesn’t argue the point, instead making a forceful case that police make better arrests when working a turf that they know.

To be clear, Emanuel never said he was going to hire 1,000 more police officers, although you can sure see how people got that impression.

When asked for details, he always indicated most of his additional police “on the streets” would be accomplished through re-deployment, although he emphasized that this would result mainly from moving police out of the central office bureaucracy and other administrative positions spread through the department.

Police tell me McCarthy has been effective in doing just that, and he told our editorial board he plans to add to that effort by beginning to hire more civilians to perform administrative duties now carried out by police officers.

He also said a new class of at least 50 police officers will enter the academy in October, which may reduce some of the heat but won’t even offset this year’s retirements.

But McCarthy seemed only vaguely aware of Emanuel’s idea to hire 250 police with TIF funds and made clear he has no expectation of doing so in the next year.

He also was dismissive of another scheme that Emanuel had said he would use to put police on the streets — assigning police cadets to perform administrative duties.

“That’s not an efficient use of them,” he said.

McCarthy is an impressive guy, comes across as the real police and deserves a chance to do things his way.

But he’d do himself a favor if he didn’t bend over too far backward to help the mayor play his numbers game.

© 2014 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 To order a reprint of this article, click here.