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Community policing to get boost, Mayor Emanuel vows

Updated: November 12, 2012 11:53AM

Mayor Rahm Emanuel pledged Wednesday to breathe new life into the city’s stagnant community-policing program, drawing approval from aldermen.

Emanuel said 50 community-policing employees will be moved from police headquarters to districts where they will join about 70 other employees in the program.

Their performance will come under the scrutiny of the department’s CompStat evaluation system, just like that of other officers, the mayor said during a Sun-Times Editorial Board meeting after delivering his budget address.

The Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy was a key part of the department’s crime-fighting efforts under former police Supt. Terry Hillard in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but the program faltered in recent years.

“I was very disappointed in the last year of Mayor Daley’s term when they eliminated community-policing positions in the police districts,” said Ald. Joe Moore (49th).

Moore said he was happy to learn district commanders will fashion their own community-policing initiatives.

In his budget address, Emanuel painted an upbeat picture of the police department’s efforts to combat murder and other crime — countering a national perception that killings are out of control here.

The mayor also touted the expected hiring of almost 460 new police officers this year and another 500 next year.

But union officials and aldermen said the new police hires may not even keep pace with retirements. Through Aug. 15, 420 officers had already retired, according to the Fraternal Order of Police.

FOP President Michael Shields says the city needs to hire a minimum of 1,400 new officers. But police Supt. Garry McCarthy is satisfied with maintaining the budgeted strength of 12,500 cops, a mayoral spokeswoman said.

In his address, Emanuel said he will make permanent a summer overtime initiative that put more cops on the street.

Chicago gained national attention early this year when the number of killings topped last year’s by more than 60 percent.

The mayor noted that some neighborhoods experienced an increase in gang violence over the first three months of 2012 that “I, as a mayor, will never accept.” Since then, though, the murder rate has flattened out. The year’s homicide increase through the end of September was about 28 percent.

Emanuel pointed out that the Englewood and Harrison police districts, which have received an infusion of beat cops and other resources, have seen major decreases in murders this year, by 42 percent and 20 percent respectively.

But he acknowledged that other parts of the city have seen their homicide rates soar because of gang conflicts. Police leadership changes and an expansion of the department’s gang-fighting strategy have started to reduce killings in some of those police districts, the mayor said.

Emanuel emphasized that crime is down in every other major category besides murder, resulting in a 9 percent overall decrease in crime across the city this year.

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