Chicago Police Department to hire more than 500 officers

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Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson will announce plans to hire more than 500 new police officers Wednesday afternoon. (WLS)

On Wednesday, the Chicago Police Department will announce plans to hire more than 500 new police officers. Superintendent Eddie Johnson will make the announcement at a 2 p.m. press conference at Chicago police headquarters.

The department currently has more than 12,000 officers, and hasn't had a hiring push of this magnitude in years. The move is a departure from how Mayor Rahm Emanuel has handled staffing at the department during his tenure, resisting pressure to add to the department's ranks and instead paying thousands of dollars in overtime. Emanuel spokesman Adam Collins declined to comment.

Johnson would not confirm the exact number of new hires and is cautious about this small step toward slowing down Chicago's violence epidemic.

"Don't be misled, it's going to take a whole lot of pieces to stem the violence that we have in the city," Johnson said at a Tuesday night CPD roll call.

Chicago has seen a dramatic rise in the number of shootings and homicides this year. In August alone, there were 90 homicides for the first time in two decades. Overall, the city has recorded more than 500 homicides this year - higher than all of 2015 - and is on pace to climb past the 600-homicide mark for the first time since 2003. There have also been more than 2,500 shooting incidents so far this year, about 700 more than in the same time period last year.

"When I became superintendent I pledged that I would look at CPD from top to bottom to see what we could to do try and improve the city of Chicago," Johnson said.

The decision will cost the city tens of millions of dollars.

"There has to be an acknowledgement that the policies of the past five years have not worked," said 32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack.

Waguespack, often a critic of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, supports the plan and believes the city has the money to finance it, but has some concerns as well.

"The number one rule of government is to make sure you have public safety, a rule of law, and if you don't have that you're in big trouble. And I think that's what we need to get back to," he said.

An annual entry level base salary for a Chicago police officer is roughly $46,000 per new hire. If just 500 officers are added, that will cost more than $23 million, not including overtime, pensions and benefits.

Father Michael Pfleger, outspoken on community efforts to curb Chicago's gun violence, cautioned much more still needs to be done.

"We can't police our way out of this. If we don't also put the same kind of commitment to jobs, to economic development, housing, to good schools then, you know, we're going to find ourselves with the same problem we have right now," Pfleger said.

The mayor was expected to give a speech on Chicago's violence Tuesday but pushed it back to Thursday. He is expected to outline this plan in detail during that speech as well.

According to a recent Chicago Sun-Times report, there are fewer officers because police retirements have outpaced hiring by 975 officers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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