Sneed: Chicago Police Department’s press staffing draws flak

SHARE Sneed: Chicago Police Department’s press staffing draws flak

Ald. Edward M. Burke | Sun-Times file photo

The city’s violence-torn South Side is practically in tatters.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel admits we need more police on the streets.

Yet Sneed is told the Chicago Police Department has assigned two dozen police personnel to a news affairs office budgeted for only four personnel to handle the media.

“This is hypocrisy,” said City Council Ald. Edward Burke (14th).

“Why aren’t civilians staffing the Chicago Police Department’s news office, so police officers can be on the street?” said Burke, the powerful head of the city’s Finance Committee.

“The city’s annual budget appropriation ordinance designates salaries for only four paid news affairs staffers at the Chicago Police Department at a total of $343,746 a year.

“Why was the City Council told one thing and the police bureaucracy doing something else?

“They are taking police officers out of police districts and have them shuffle papers in the press office when the city homicide rate is making national headlines; and the number of shootings are growing — including a judge shot down on his back porch!

“In this day and age when commanders are spread thin in districts with manpower, how dare they detail four sergeants and 21 police officers to the press office.”

The true “cost to the city for the Chicago Police Department’s news media operation is $2,535,468,” Burke concluded.

• The flip side: “Look, the news affairs office is a 24-hour-a-day job, seven days a week,” a police source said. “And the mayor has already moved hundreds of desk jobs back onto the streets.

“People and the press call up news affairs overnight to find out what happened when there is a shooting, and we try to relay back that information as soon as possible.

“There are three persons per shift and a huge volume to deal with and minus one or two days off, they work four days on and two days off,” the source said.

Sneed is told at least seven members of the graphics police team, who do posters for police recruitment campaigns, have been pulled into the police departmentpress office since Emanuel took office.

“There has been no expansion of either News Affairs or the Graphics team,” Supt. Eddie Johnson said Tuesday in a statement. “I have pushed for greater transparency and better, more effective communication — internally with our officers and externally with the public. A part of that involved reorganizing our communications office so the existing graphic and video teams work hand in hand with public information officers so that both are more effective, but neither department has grown in size for years.”

“Nonew police officers have been added to the communications office,” said CPD’s Director of News AffairsAnthony Guglielmi,who is paid $126,564 per year. “Two officers were temporarily detailed to the unit in March to accommodate maternity leave of an officer and April vacation schedules.”

“Look, it’s a complex budget process, which allows the police department to move people in an out of the unit. It results in a paperwork exercise between budgeted and detailed staff. There are only four budgeted people, but the office couldn’t be run with four people,” the police source said.

“If the phone rings because there is a stabbing in Englewood, four people could not humanly process and run the agency effectively.

Burke’s response: “So why didn’t they present that to the City Council when they presented their testimony for the 2017 budget?”

“It appears they are hiding police officers who should be fighting crime in an office that should be staffed by civilians.”

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