500 cops to be reassigned to high-crime areas

May 24, 2011 2:50:16 PM PDT
Mayor Rahm Emanuel unveiled his plan to shift hundreds of police officers to high-crime neighborhoods Tuesday, saying the city can't beat crime without more police on the beat.

Emanuel made the announcement at a news conference at the 6th District police station in the Gresham neighborhood after his first cabinet meeting.

Five hundred Chicago police officers will be part of the redeployment effort.

The move will increase the number of daily patrol officers on the South and West sides without drawing officers away from lower-crime neighborhoods. Still, the police union expressed reservations about the plan because it doesn't call for hiring new officers.

The reassigned officers are from the department's Mobile Strike Force and Targeted Response Unit which respond to flare-ups in violence quickly and with overwhelming force. For the next 90 days, they will now be working a beat.

"It's a philosophy about community policing, working with the community, deploying your resources to where you need it to bring a level of safety that has not existed before," Emanuel said.

Though some in the past have criticized the rapid response tactical units for being too heavy handed, acting police superintendent Garry McCarthy said the temporary reassignments are not a statement about their methods.

"There's a need for specialization in police work, but the backbone has to be the district command and the beat officers who are supported by specialization," said McCarthy.

"We've tried the paramilitary route with these specialized units before. It doesn't seem to work on a long term plan," said Ald. Howard Brookins Jr., 21st Ward

The police union had a lukewarm response to the plan, characterizing the move as merely shuffling the deck. More patrol officers is a good thing, said the union, but where are the new hires?

During the campaign, Mayor Emanuel said he planned to add 1,000 new officers to the streets, at least a quarter of which would be new hires. But he offered no specifics on how and when that would be accomplished.

"Within the first seven days here, we're putting 500 officers on the street as a down payment," he said.

One thing the plan does not call for is shifting officers from areas of lower crime to higher crime, a move long opposed by many on the North Side.

New 48th Ward Alderman Harry Osterman says he supports this latest move, but he says all districts will eventually need new hires.

"We need to add new officers, and it can't just be shifting officers from one area to the next. We have to add new officers on the street," said Osterman.

These new reassignments are in effect for the next 90 days, which is how long CPD can reassign an officer on a temporary basis. After the summer, the strategy will be evaluated. If it's successful, the police union expects the reassignments to become permanent.

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