Hillard moves 470 cops back to beat patrol

March 25, 2011 8:26:04 PM PDT
Interim Chicago Police Superintendent Terry Hillard is transferring 470 police officers back to neighborhood beat patrol.

He's only been the superintendent for about three weeks and he'll only be there until Mayor Richard Daley leaves office in May.

But Hillard is very different from his predecessor Jody Weis, and he's moving the department back in the direction he believes it needs to go before summer comes and more people are out on the streets.

That means the focus is on patrol officers.

For months, and even years, some Chicago cops have grumbled that they are undermanned while trying to patrol some of the city's high-crime neighborhoods.

Hillard has no budget for hiring additional officers but he does have the ability to reassign some officers in specialized assignments back to the street. And that's what he's doing.

"The badge says 'Chicago Police.' It doesn''t say anything about mobile strike force or narcotics or gang investigation. It says Chicago Police," Hillard said.

The interim superintendent says patrol officers are the most important function of the department.

He wants them in place before the summer months when crime traditionally increases. While he's serving under Daley, the moves also have the support of incoming mayor Rahm Emanuel.

"Superintendent Hillard is following the philosophy which defined his tenure, which is reinforcing the beat officers on the street, in the neighborhood, in the community, working at community policing," Emanuel said.

Weis had what some considered a contentious relationship with the rank-and-file officers.

But union president Mark Donohue says the interim superintendent seems to be moving in a direction that will improve morale.

"The overall mission is being better addressed than it has in the past," said Fraternal Order of the Police President Mark Donohue.

Hillard is avoiding comparisons with the previous superintendent, but he is clear on his priorities.

"Patrol is the backbone of the Chicago Police Department. Every other unit in this police department, even the superintendent's office, is a support unit for patrol," Hillard said.

The superintendent is moving 70 officers from specialized assignments, like gangs, and 400 tactical officers back to the streets.

He wants them in uniform and in high visibility high-crime areas where they are most needed.

Former superintendent Jody Weis told ABC7 Friday night by phone that he's not offended by the changes the interim superintendent is making.

"I just look at it like when I'm gone, I'm gone. We'll just see how the results turn out," he said.

For the record, Hillard said the changes are part of his philosophy, not a response to Weis.