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Chico plans to add 2,000 cops

Gery Chico talks with GloriPadrwho lost her sAnthony shooting 2004. Speaking Marquette Park Chico was giving his plan for police

Gery Chico talks with Gloria Padron, who lost her son Anthony to a shooting in 2004. Speaking at Marquette Park, Chico was giving his plan for the police force. | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

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Updated: May 4, 2011 4:46AM

Mayoral challenger Gery Chico on Wednesday unveiled plans to hire 2,000 more Chicago Police officers, rebuild community policing, empower district commanders and strengthen Chicago’s watered-down anti-gang loitering ordinance.

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.

Mayor Daley’s final budget calls for hiring up to 200 new officers, nowhere near enough to keep pace with normal attrition, let alone fill existing vacancies. The lame-duck mayor has insisted that 200 officers are all the city can afford.

Chico, the mayor’s former chief of staff, strongly disagrees.

By stripping down the city budget and rebuilding it with a new emphasis on public safety, he’s promising to find the $200 million needed to hire 2,000 additional officers by the end of his first term, if he’s elected mayor.

Police presence “in and around” schools would increase. So would the number of officers assigned to districts, where too many officers ride solo because their colleagues have been reassigned to special units.

“If you can’t modify the budget by three percent to provide the police officers our citizens are demanding, then don’t apply for the job,” he said.

Chico said he would start the search for police hiring dollars by eliminating some of the “eight layers’’ of command that currently exist between the police superintendent and district commanders and the “eleven layers” between the superintendent and patrol officers on the street.

“The military doesn’t have that many. It wastes money and lengthens the time it takes to get a decision made. That has to be cut down,” he said.

After a police protest last fall triggered by the manpower shortage, Daley yanked scores of police officers out of community policing.

Chico would do the opposite. He wants to rebuild the 20-year-old program by opening storefront CAPS offices in the heart of high-crime neighborhood to increase the “feeling of police presence.”

The offices would be staffed by retired police officers and trained cadets.

School, senior citizen and neighborhood relations programs would be run through CAPS offices. District officers would hold regular meetings with business owners and neighborhood groups to “re-engage the community in fighting crime.”

District commanders who currently wait 30 to 60 days for approval to use plain-clothes officers would be given increased autonomy, including the power to restructure CAPS programs to meet local needs. They would also be held more accountable.

Appearing with Gloria Pardon, whose 13-year-old son was gunned down by alleged gang members, Chico vowed to strengthen the anti-gang loitering ordinance “without violating civil liberties.”

Daley’s initial crackdown against street corner gang activity resulted in more than 42,000 arrests over three years before a string of adverse court decisions forced the city to suspend enforcement in December 1995.

Four years later, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed that the ordinance was too vague, but gave the city a legal road map to rewrite the law so it might pass constitutional muster. Daley followed it to the letter — by more narrowly defining “gang and narcotics loitering” and limiting enforcement to designated “hot spots.”

Chico also hinted strongly that he would follow the so-called “broken windows” theory of fighting crime championed by former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani — by directing the city’s corporation counsel to “pro-actively prosecute.

“Strict enforcement of even minor offenses [by] the most problematic people is an effective tool to prevent crime and reduce the risk of more serious crimes,” his plan states.

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