Moonlighting police officers to continue patrolling parks, CTA

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The Chicago Police Department’s Finance Chief Jonathan Johnson (left), Public Transportation Unit Commander Cindy Sam (center) and Chief of Patrol Fred Waller (right) testify Monday before the City Council’s Committee on Public Safety. | Fran Spielman for the Sun-Times

Moonlighting Chicago Police officers will continue to patrol the CTA, the lakefront and city parks, thanks to a pair of agreements advanced Monday that includes no increase in manpower to match a ten percent spike in CTA crime.

The City Council’s Committee on Public Safety signed off on both, three-year extensions that will, together, pay the city $42 million through 2019.

The first agreement calls for the CTA to reimburse the city at a rate of $10 million-a-year in exchange for having 60 off-duty police officers-a-day working their days off patrolling CTA rail lines, buses, routes and stations. That’s the same number of officers as last year even though crime is on the rise.

“There was a ten percent increase over the last year. Mainly theft,” said Cindy Sam, commander of the Chicago Police Department’s Public Transportation Unit.

The spike raised eyebrows with lakefront Ald. Harry Osterman (48th).

“I represent a lakefront ward that has the Red Line, which has issues with theft and also transporting…people who commit thefts,” Osterman said.

The second agreement calls for up to 40 off-duty police officers each day to patrol the lakefront and other inner city parks until mid-October.

Once again, Chief of Patrol Fred Waller insisted there would be no increase in manpower. But that does not explain why the agreement nevertheless doubles the city’s compensation—to $4 million—this year, followed by reimbursements of $2 million in both 2018 and 2019.

Osterman said he’s all for the idea of flooding the lakefront with additional police resources to tamp down gang activity that appears to be on the upswing.

“Every year, we get more and more people coming to the lakefront….Every year, there’s issues that come up on the lakefront. It’s kind of predictable. You can say…this day something typically happens there,” Osterman said.

But Osterman said he is concerned about the decision to supplement a summer mobile unit that was disbanded only to be brought back with “bike cops from districts along the lakefront” like his own.

“I would like as much as possible to keep those bike officers in the districts. Those bicycle officers are incredibly effective at deterring crime and patrolling the area. Bike cops, like foot patrolmen, are very much on the ground and build a great conduit with local residents there,” Osterman said.

“When they filter through the district to get to the lakefront, do their tour on the lakefront and filter back, I don’t think they’re spending enough time focused in the community with the beat integrity.”

Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) shares the 19th District, where officers are routinely diverted to the lakefront. He feels the same way.

“Montrose Beach has gotten incredibly busy over the last five years. And that’s great. There are a lot more special events. We have concerts there now. It’s all wonderful,” Pawar said.

“But maintaining the integrity of bike patrols would be great. Pulling them off of our beats…and pushing them to the lakefront may be necessary for specific events, but on a regular basis, that would create concern for us. “

Indicted Ald. Willie Cochran (20th), a former Chicago Police officer, expressed concern about the police department’s longstanding policy of choosing moonlighting cops for overtime assignments—at the CTA, CHA or park district–based on seniority.

“One of the issues we had on some coverage was older people…being assigned out in the districts in those problematic zones,” Cochran said.

“We were not getting the type of response that we felt that we needed from them and there were some adjustments made to reconsider how that deployment was. Why are we not following the same procedures” with the CTA and Park District deployments?”

Waller replied, “That’s something we’re probably not gonna be able to talk about…in a public forum. But we can get back to you after this meeting through the chair.”

Cochran then asked how the CTA and park district programs would be administered.

Waller said deployment decisions would be made by police headquarters, based on recommendations from the districts and “from elected officials also.”

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