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Supt. Garry McCarthy to cut $190M from police budget

“There are ways save money but questiis how close bone do we have get?” Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy (left

“There are ways to save money but the question is, how close to the bone do we have to get?” Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy (left, with Mayor Rahm Emanuel in June) said Tuesday. | Al Podgorski~Sun-Times

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Updated: November 4, 2011 6:42PM

Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said Tuesday he’s been asked to cut $190 million from the Police Department’s $1.3 billion annual budget and would only get halfway there by eliminating police vacancies.

“We are looking at absolutely everything. There are ways to save money but the question is, how close to the bone do we have to get?” McCarthy said.

“We have to eliminate about $190 million. We are at a point right now that, if we eliminated all our vacancies, we would save approximately $93 million. That gets us about halfway.”

There are about 13,500 budgeted positions for sworn officers and about 1,400 vacancies. About 775 officers are on medical leave, a department spokeswoman said.

Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), former chairman of the City Council’s Police Committee, has infuriated the Fraternal Order of Police with his cost-cutting suggestions.

Beale recommended axing officers’ $1,800 a year uniform allowance as well as duty-availability pay — a supplemental $2,800 a year lump sum that compensates officers for being on call at any time.

Asked whether those items are on his hit list, McCarthy would only say “that has to be negotiated” when the police contract expires June 30.

But he said, “We are looking at cutting 15 to 20 percent across the board.”

Former Mayor Richard M. Daley routinely saved tens of millions of dollars by authorizing a certain number of officers in his annual budget, then failing to fill police vacancies or keep pace with attrition. His final budget was a classic example. It authorized the hiring of 200 additional police officers, but not one of them has been hired or entered the police academy.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel may have no alternative but to play the same manpower game. But that would run contrary to his campaign promise to put an additional 1,000 police officers in the patrol division — and his recent promise to erase a more than $635 million shortfall without cutting police, raising taxes or using one-time or casino revenues. “We’re not changing how many police we have. I’m not going to skimp on public safety,” the mayor told the Chicago Sun-Times earlier this month.

Civic Federation President Laurence Msall welcomed Emanuel’s decision to make deep cuts in the police department’s budget, which previous mayors have viewed as politically untouchable.

In a road map to fiscal solvency released two months ago, the Civic Federation urged the new mayor to eliminate “unnecessary layers of management” and supervisory benefits in the police department, reduce “chronic absenteeism” and redraw maps of police districts and “strategize beat staffing” based on the U.S. census, 911 calls and relevant crime data.

“We feel strongly that the Chicago Police Department needs to right-size its management to reflect potential savings generated from following the leaner management of New York City and Houston, both of which operate with fewer management layers,” Msall said.

Msall hedged when asked whether $190 million can be squeezed from the police budget without eliminating police vacancies.

“More important than the number of sworn officers is the number of patrolmen working the streets and responding to calls,” Msall said.

In his first 100 days in office, McCarthy has shifted 750 cops to patrol from desk jobs and from disbanded citywide teams such as the Mobile Strike Force and Targeted Response Unit. He also recently eliminated several layers of the command structure at the top.

The Civic Federation has proposed a similar cut in the Fire Department’s budget by re-evaluating everything from minimum staffing requirements for fire apparatus to the number and location of fire stations and by examining ways to outsource and reduce disability absences. The review would be the first since a largely ignored 1999 report by the Tri-Data Corp.

During an interview on his first 100 days in office, Emanuel noted that the number of fires has steadily declined over the years. Without offering specifics, the mayor said he has “some ideas” about how to make more effective use of firefighter downtime.

“I’m aware of what has happened over the years, but there are choices to be made,” he said. “As I go to the engine houses, I say, ‘What happens here guys can’t be sacrosanct.’ ”

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