Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Monday presided over a Navy Pier graduation ceremony for 111 police recruits — an event that raised a sore subject for the mayor politically: his broken promise to hire 1,000 additional Chicago Police officers.
“We just swore in 111. This brings us to over 1,200 [hired since 2011]. There’s 250 new recruits already in the academy. . . . We always keep`em fresh,” Emanuel said.
“We did put 1,000 officers on the street. That’s exactly what we did — by taking `em from behind the desk to behind the wheel, eliminating task forces and putting `em back into Operation Impact doing community policing.”
Emanuel campaigned on a promise to hire 1,000 additional police officers then revised the pledge after taking office by adding 1,000 more “cops on the beat,” more than half of them by disbanding special units. The other half were primarily officers working desk jobs reassigned to street duty.
The mayor also balanced his first budget by eliminating more than 1,400 police vacancies, declaring an end to what he called the annual “shell game” of budgeting for police jobs the city had no intention of filling.
When shootings and murders spiked and Chicago started making headlines as the nation’s murder capital, Emanuel used runaway overtime to tamp down the violence — to the tune of $100.3 million in 2013 and $95 million last year.
Pointing to the 10,000 shootings on Emanuel’s watch, mayoral challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia has pledged to hire the 1,000 additional officers that Emanuel promised but failed to deliver.
Pressed to explain where he would find the $120 million in annual revenue needed to cover salaries and benefits for the new officers, Garcia has said he would start by cutting the overtime budget in half.
When Emanuel hammered him further, Garcia signed on to the mayor’s plan to expand the state sales tax to cover an array of services that for now are not taxed. And Garcia vowed to pursue a graduated income tax that would require a constitutional amendment.
Emanuel has argued that overtime is a more flexible and cost-effective substitute for police hiring because the city doesn’t have to bear the cost of pensions and benefits for new officers.
Garcia has countered that moonlighting police officers working ridiculous amounts of overtime not only get burned out, but also don’t know the neighborhoods they parachute into. As a result, he said, they don’t develop the kinds of ties to area residents that are needed to rebuild trust between citizens and police.
On Monday, Emanuel once again made mocking reference to Garcia’s decision to punt the all-important question of new revenues to a post-election commission that would report back in 90 days — after the Illinois General Assembly has already adjourned its spring session.
“Does that committee recommend cutting officers — not adding ‘em? Does that committee recommend more taxes?” the mayor said.
During their speeches to the graduates, neither Emanuel nor Police Supt. Garry McCarthy made mention of another sore subject: an American Civil Liberties Union study that concluded that “stop-and-frisk” questioning by police disproportionately targeted African-Americans.
But McCarthy may have been alluding to stop-and-frisk when he warned the officers that they would be “subject to great scrutiny and great criticism for everything” they do.
“Policing is about countless daily interactions that impact lives and communities, and each one of those encounters is a teachable moment. The question is, what will you be teaching and will you be learning all at the same time?” the superintendent said, noting that arrests are down and so are citizens complaints.
“You need to do it with respect. You need to treat every individual you encounter with the respect that you would want your family to be treated with.”
Asked about the ACLU study after the graduation, Emanuel said: “The superintendent — you heard his speech about every moment is a teachable moment and working with individuals so they actually know you respect them. That’s how you build trust between a community, the police officers and making sure that public safety and civil liberties go hand-in-hand. . . . [It’s] not an either-or choice. They go together.”