Mayor Rahm Emanuel vowed Wednesday to find the money to pay for his two-year plan to hire 970 additional police officers, arguing that Chicago is paying the price already in “lost lives.”
“I’m not gonna propose something that is not paid for. … I have all four pensions paid for. … We are gonna do the tough and necessary things to go line-by-line and find the resources,” Emanuel said.
“I appreciate the fact that you want to count how many police — and I do, too. We’re gonna have the resources for it because the city is paying in another way. And that’s unacceptable to me. Unacceptable to the people of Chicago. … We as a city are paying for this today in lost lives.”
The Chicago Sun-Times reported this week that the Chicago Police Department will launch a two-year hiring blitz that will add 970 police officers over and above attrition to confront a 50 percent spike in homicides and shootings and a troubling increase in other violent crime.
On Wednesday, aldermen emerged from private briefings skeptical about the mayor’s ability to deliver on his promise to fill 471 vacancies, keep pace with retirements and still hire enough police officers to add 516 patrol officers, 92 field training officers, 112 sergeants, 50 lieutenants and 200 detectives to raise an abysmal clearance rate for homicides and shootings.
At a first-year cost of $138,000-per-officer including salary, benefits and supervision, the 970 additional officers carry a two-year price tag of $133.8 million.
Aldermen have their doubts, because Emanuel campaigned for a first term on a similar promise, only to break it and because Emanuel is not saying how he plans to pay for it.
“That’s what a budget’s for. It will be in black and white for you. That’s in three weeks from now,” the mayor said, promising not to raise sales, property or gasoline taxes.
Emanuel denied that the two-year hiring surge was tantamount to a concession that his heavy reliance on police overtime had failed to tamp down the violence.
The Chicago Police Department spent a record $116.1 million on overtime in 2015 — up 17.2 percent from the previous year — to mask a manpower shortage that has mushroomed under Emanuel with police retirements outpacing hiring by 975 officers.
That means the two-year hiring blitz would essentially return the Chicago Police Department to where it was when Emanuel took office.
“North Carolina is an alert to you, as is Milwaukee. We’re facing something new. … What happened this year is new. So, we’re meeting it with a new response, which is more police, more technology, greater investment in our mentoring, our summer jobs and our after school” programs, the mayor said.
“Every child will have a mentor in our 20 worst violent crime areas and neighborhoods of the city because we’re gonna make sure not another generation falls to the grips of gangs.”
The mayor made the remarks after touring a job fair at Malcolm X College for young people who are both out of school and without jobs.
On Thursday, Emanuel will return to Malcolm X to deliver a policy address on violence that is his most anticipated speech since his public apology for the police shooting of Laquan McDonald.
It will focus on, what he has called the four P’s: policing, punishment, prevention and parenting.
The parenting piece is potentially perilous territory, particularly if Emanuel insists on confronting the issue of absentee fathers in African-American families in the harsh terms he has used during private previews with stakeholders.
Emanuel has talked about encountering only one black father in all of the homes, hospital rooms, churches and funerals he has visited after innocent children were gunned down or wounded on the streets of Chicago.
On Wednesday, the mayor made it clear that he will not shy away from that uncomfortable conversation that he started during his second inaugural address.
“Character counts. I believe in giving our kids a foundation. … Becoming a Man, My Brother’s Keeper [and] A Hundred Black Men can provide youth with that foundation so they can make good decisions,” the mayor said.
“The Vice Lords are ready to be a mentor. Is Chicago ready to a mentor? The Gangster Disciples is ready to be a role model. Is Chicago ready to be a role model? The Six Corner Hustlers are ready to be a family. Is the city of Chicago ready to be a family?”
He added, “If you give the kids of Chicago a positive alternative with a caring adult, they’ll go the positive route. If we offer them … mentors, summer jobs and after school [programs], we will give our kids the guidance they need so the decisions they make at a very early age in life will be the right decisions for the rest of their life. I have no problem speaking up about something that I think is important. The good news is, I know there are a lot of mothers and fathers, grandmothers and aunts and uncles who believe in the role of mentoring.”