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Rahm Emanuel's Promise: 1,000 More Cops On the Street

Rahm Emanuel's Promise: 1,000 More Cops On the Street

Associated Press

Chicago Sun Times via YellowBrix

January 09, 2011

Mayoral hopeful Rahm Emanuel is promising to put 1,000 more police officers on Chicago’s streets by putting cadets in desk jobs, cracking down on medical abuses and renegotiating a policy that allows officers to take 365 sick days every two years.

But he’s not about to “divide the city” by realigning police beats or reallocating officers from lower-crime districts to those that need more protection.

Emanuel is promising to dump Police Supt. Jody Weis to improve morale and reverse what he calls a “culture of preventive policing” where officers are “not doing their job because they don’t think anybody has their back.” But he also wants to pull the rug out from under the plan that Weis hopes to execute before his $310,000-a-year contract expires March 1 — to shift police from low-crime districts to high-crime ones for the first time in 30 years.

“I want to think of solutions that [do] not pit the North Side of the city against the South Side, the West Side against the central part of the city,” Emanuel told the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board Friday.

Political pressure from aldermen who stand to lose officers has prevented the city from redrawing the boundaries of police beats or reallocating officers from district to district since the late 1970s.

Weis told aldermen during City Council budget hearings that he would have a “reallocation plan” by Dec. 31, but such a plan has not been unveiled.

Weis would not respond directly to Emanuel’s comments, but he previously said “nothing speaks to morale like results,” noting there have been almost two years of straight month-to-month crime reductions, and the 2010 homicide total was the lowest in 45 years. He also previously touted improved training and equipment and a 50-percent drop in lawsuits against officers during his tenure.

A source close to Weis said “the superintendent believes that the next mayor will need to sit down with whomever they select, and it will be up to them to develop a public-safety strategy that they are comfortable with.”

All the while, Weis has led a department that is more than 2,300 officers-a-day short of authorized strength, counting vacancies, sick leave and limited duty.

The Fraternal Order of Police has served notice it intends to enforce the union contract that, union officials warned, could severely limit Weis’ options.

Emanuel’s anti-crime plan does not rely on shifting officers from district to district.

He has already talked about using tax-increment-financing (TIF) funds to hire 250 police officers.

Now he wants to free 500 more desk cops for street duty by revitalizing the police cadet program and using those college students to perform clerical work in the city’s 25 police districts.

Graduating cadets would get “hiring preference” second only to military veterans.

The remaining 250 officers would come from a long-awaited crackdown on medical abuses made possible, in part, by a generous sick-leave policy that Mayor Daley was advised to change nearly 20 years ago, but never did.

FOP President Mark Donahue said he has welcomed the opportunity to “weed out medical abusers” — and the Police Department has a so-called medical integrity unit that’s attempting to do that.

But he reacted coolly to the idea of forfeiting a policy that allows officers to take 365 sick days every two years.

“A lot of our guys get hurt doing their jobs — even more so lately,” Donahue said, after a year that saw six officers lose their lives, five of them shot to death and one in a car accident.

Emanuel said he would have officers become more aggressive on the street.

“You’ve got to get back on that street and take possession of those streets so the kids and the neighbors have a sense that those streets belong to them,” said Emanuel, whose uncle was a Chicago cop.

“If you think with your nightstick, I can’t protect you,” he said. “You do your job like you were trained to do, and both the superintendent and the mayor will have your back.”

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