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Chicago Police Department announces plan to hire nearly 1,000 new officers

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Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson announced plans to hire nearly 1,000 new police officers in the next two years. (WLS)

Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson announced plans to hire nearly 1,000 new police officers in the next two years.

Johnson spoke at a 2 p.m. press conference inside police headquarters to announce the hiring blitz, which includes 200 new detectives, 516 officers, 112 sergeants and 50 lieutenants. CPD Communications Director Anthony Guglielmi tweeted about the breakdown of the new hires Wednesday morning.


"We're going to add officers to areas experiencing violent crime, and we're going to fill vacancies in districts in communities across the city. And so because Mayor Rahm Emanuel's, because of his strong support, we're going to get all the things that we ask for," Johnson said at the press conference.

Johnson said he met with Mayor Rahm Emanuel recently to address the growing rates of murder and other crime in the city. He said the answer, he said, is more officers to work the streets and more promotions to relieve the burden on many of the overloaded detectives and supervisors.

"The truth is we can't pull officers from the safer communities into the more violent ones. Gang members will figure that out and shift their operations. I'm confident that these added resources will make us better and give us the capacity we need to address our crime problems across the city," Johnson said.

The city has yet to say exactly what the hires will cost or how they will pay for it, but at least some of the money is expected to come from reduced overtime for current officers.

The move was welcomed by the Fraternal Order of Police, which said adding more detectives is especially significant.

"You'll see homicide detectives and shooting, aggravated battery detectives walking around the area with a coffee mug duct-taped to their hand, more or less, because they never leave and they never stop. And they need a lot of help," said FOP president Dean Angelo.

"Because we stretched them so thin I think we've seen some really disappointing repercussions in our communities," said 45th Ward Alderman John Arena.

Johnson's proposal will increase the number of officers from 12,656 currently to 13,535 by the end of 2018.

In the violence-plagued Austin neighborhood, there was tentative hope and some skepticism about how much of a difference more police will make.

"We're putting the onus on the police department. We need a war on poverty. We need to put some resources behind job creation," said Rev. Ira Acree.

In the past five years Mayor Rahm Emanuel relied on police overtime to fight skyrocketing violence in the city. Aldermen said in 2015 they paid about $100 million in overtime pay, which they said would go a long way towards paying for the new officers the city hopes to hire.

ANNOUNCEMENT PROMPTS CONCERNS AMONG ALDERMEN, COMMUNITY

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Hiring more police is an old idea that has been hotly debated in Chicago for the past five years.



Hiring more police is an old idea that has been hotly debated in Chicago for the past five years.

Aaron Lewis, 48, is an ex-convict and recovering drug addict who said more police would help in his West Side neighborhood but only if the new cops dealt with crime in a different way.

"Instead of dealing with it in a violent fashion, they can deal with it in a more mature fashion," Lewis said.

"Are we going to recruit 500 more police officers that may wind up giving us 500 more Laquan McDonald situations?" asked political consultant Maze Jackson.

"How are we going to pay? Are we going to go back to the taxpayers, are we going to raise taxes again, are we going to tax the air that we breathe? I mean, where are we going to get the money?" asked 10th Ward Alderman Susan Sadlowski Garza.

But other aldermen expressed confidence that Johnson would hire and train the right people, and that their constituents would be willing to pay more in taxes.

"If the money is spent correctly, wisely and has an impact, nobody will remember what the price tag was," said 15th Ward Alderman Raymond Lopez.

"Most of the citizens in the city of Chicago wouldn't mind doing something more to be safer in this city," said 27th Ward Alderman Walter Burnett.

Emanuel toured a youth job fair at Malcolm X College Wednesday where he offered no details on how he planned to pay for the additional cops. He also stressed the need for jobs in the citywide effort to prevent violent crime.

"Making sure our kids and people who are either not in school or in work have hope in their lives and have a job," Emanuel said.

During his reelection campaign, Emanuel opposed hiring more police officers, but in the wake of worsening violence and reports that Illinois has the highest African American unemployment rate in the country, Jackson said it appears he is doing what mayors in such situations typically do.

"Until we're ready to address some of the systemic and social issues, that's always going to be the answer: find more police, more enforcement," Jackson said.

Black Lives Matter Chicago released a statement criticizing the announcement, saying in part, "The causes of crime and intra-communal violence exist because of the conditions of poverty that Rahm Emanuel has exacerbated for Chicago. More policing will not "fix" these conditions. What more policing will accomplish is more violence, more lock ups and more trauma for our already suffering communities."

Some community activists were skeptical of the hiring plan and said the money it will use would be better spent on police training and investments in blighted communities.

"I think the money should be spent more effectively. Not in new hires, but actually in training the ones that we have," said Bishop James Dukes, of the Liberation Christian Center.

"If you can raise $1 billion for a Star Wars museum, surely you can raise $1 billion to bring resources into our community," said Pastor Greg Livingston, of the Coalition for a New Chicago.

Emanuel is set to give a speech on public safety Thursday night, and he indicated he would not use it to reveal his plan to pay for additional police. He said that would be part of his budget proposal, to be released and negotiated later this fall.
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