Police superintendent meets with aldermen

CHICAGO Chicago aldermen sent a public message to Weis Tuesday that his job entails much more than fighting corruption in the department. For more than five hours, aldermen grilled Weis about increased gun violence, sagging police morale and all the new commanders running city police districts.

The hastily arranged conference was called last week by 29th Ward Alderman Isaac Carothers, the chairman of the police and fire committee. Its purpose is not only to question Weis about his administration of the Chicago Police Department but also to discuss what some alderman say is an upsurge of violence in city neighborhoods.

Weis arrived at the hearing Tuesday morning not wearing his police uniform. There has been some controversy about his wearing it, given the fact that the former FBI agent has never worked as a policeman.

Upon taking command six months ago, Weis appointed virtually all new command staff members and replaced 21 of 25 district commanders. He came under sharp fire earlier this month after gang members crashed the Taste of Chicago. Four people were shot, one fatally, as gunfire erupted following the July 3 fireworks display.

Weis told aldermen Tuesday his strategy for the rest of summer is to increase police presence in the most troubled neighborhoods.

"To prevent and fight crime, the bureaus of patrol and strategic deployment have been coordinating their resources to address areas that have been identified as conflict zones," Weis said. "We have created new teams that focus on areas of greatest need in the city. The newly formed violence response teams are focusing on areas where gang violence is on the rise."

During his opening remarks, which did not get underway until about 11 a.m., about an hour after they were scheduled to begin, Weis pointed out violent crime is also on the rise in most of the nation's other big cities. Weis blamed the nation's bad economy for sometimes forcing people to do things they ordinarily would not do to make ends meet.

Carothers asked whether the new leadership had enough experience to control the crowd at the Taste of Chicago.

"You don't know if any of the new deputies that you put in place or your chief patrol every had that type of authority to be over an event that large. You don't know that today?" he asked.

"I don't know that today," Weis responded.

Weis - hired at $310,000 a year by Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley to clean up the scandal-ridden department - made no apologies for his own hiring decisions.

"I firmly believe that you're not gonna make any type of change if you keep the same folks in place," Weis said.

"I don't know but it's someone's fabrication on this thing," Daley said. "I meet Jody Weis once or twice a week all the time. I don't know where - people are fabricating stories, or, I don't know, make-believe stories."

After Carothers called the hearings last week, Weis met at his office privately with several aldermen, in part, to prepare himself. He is no eminent danger of losing his job, having a signed a three-year contract with the city.

"It wasn't my idea to give him a three-year contract. That was something that I discovered after the fact," said Carothers.

Some alderman were openly skeptical about the Weis plan to increase police presence in certain neighborhoods. They said they wondered whether other neighborhoods will lose their cops in the process.

At one point, Weis was interrupted by a woman in the gallery who was the mother of a 19-year-old Humboldt Park man who was shot and killed by Chicago police earlier this year. The woman was removed from the council chambers by uniformed Chicago police officers who were assisting the council sergeant-at-arms.

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