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Hillard: Cops from specialized units reassigned to patrol

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

Calling patrol officers the “backbone” of the Chicago Police Department, interim Supt. Terry Hillard announced Friday he is putting 400 plainclothes tactical and gang-enforcement officers into uniform and moving another 70 officers from a special gun units to beat cars.

Hillard said the changes are a normal preparation for the warmer months when shootings rise. But his focus on strengthening the patrol division marks a philosophical difference with his predecessor, former police Supt. Jody Weis, who beefed up special plainclothes citywide units to flood crime hot spots with cops.

“At the end of the day, patrol is the backbone of this police department,” Hillard said. “Patrol are the ones who answer those calls for service. Just like in the military, every other unit supports the infantry.”

Sources told the Chicago Sun-Times earlier this week that Hillard also was considering moving 100 officers from the plainclothes Mobile Strike Force to patrol. The unit was one of Weis’ creations.

Hillard said the Mobile Strike Force is “not affected yet, but they could be at any time. You get a spike [in crime], they’re in uniform.”

Chief of Patrol Eugene Williams said the freed-up officers will work in high-crime areas. Several aldermen from the South and West sides have said they want the extra cops deployed to their police districts.

On Friday, Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel said Hillard did not clear the changes with him. But he was gung-ho about the idea of reassigning cops from specialized units to undermanned districts.

“Superintendent Hillard is following a philosophy that defined his tenure,” Emanuel said. “I applaud that philosophy. ... Not that those specialized units aren’t doing important work. But the basis of fighting crime on our streets and in our neighborhoods is done with the beat officer.”

The police union also has called for the department to strengthen district law enforcement.

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