The $95 million police and fire training academy in West Garfield Park that has drawn opposition from Chance the Rapper and college students around the nation will be named after slain Chicago Police Cmdr. Paul Bauer.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the honor late Friday as Bauer’s widow, Erin, who also works for the city, prepared to wake and bury her husband on, what would have been their 16th wedding anniversary.
Bauer, the 53-year-old commander of the Near North District, was shot six times on Tuesday afternoon in a stairwell outside the Thompson Center, where he had confronted a man who was fleeing other officers.
Shomari Legghette, a career criminal wearing body armor, was charged and held without bond for Bauer’s murder.
“Paul Bauer may be gone from this earth, but his legacy as a great police officer and a great man will live on forever,” Emanuel was quoted as saying in a press release, issued after he consulted Bauer’s widow and 13-year-old daughter, Grace.
“For decades to come, every police and fire recruit learning to protect and serve Chicagoans will train in the Paul R. Bauer Academy, and be inspired by the example he set for us all.”
Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said there is no more appropriate honor than to have Bauer’s name enshrined on the state-of-the-art academy to be built on vacant land at 4301 W. Chicago Ave.
“Commander Bauer earned the respect and admiration of his police officers as well as this city because he did his job with sincerity, professionalism and kindness,” Johnson was quoted as saying.
“The way he lived his life should serve as an example for every police officer, and that is why I am proud to have his name on our new Public Safety Training Academy.”
Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd), who was waiting for Bauer in a City Hall conference room when the commander was gunned down, said naming the new training academy after Bauer is the perfect honor for a decorated police officer whose “remarkable” 31-year career covered “so many different aspects” of law enforcement.
The decision to turn a project that has become a source of controversy into a symbol of heroism is a high honor for the grieving Bauer family and a political master-stroke for Emanuel.
In November, Chance the Rapper accused the City Council of having misplaced priorities, but the celebrity scolding did not stop aldermen from authorizing a $9.6 million land sale that will pave the way for construction of the new training campus.
The rapper, whose real name is Chancelor Bennett, then argued that bolstering mental health services and school funding should be higher priorities than the police training that was a primary focus of the U.S. Justice Department’s scathing indictment of the Chicago Police Department. That Justice Department investigation was triggered by the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke.
“There’s a lot of ways to transform the city that don’t have anything to do with police training,” said Chance, a graduate of Jones College Prep.
Chance was long gone by the time aldermen got around to defying him by a vote of 48 to 1.
Ald. Emma Mitts (37th), led the charge with an impassioned plea for a project that will flood her impoverished, gang-infested ward with thousands of police officers and firefighters.
Chance isn’t the only one who has opposed the project and questioned the mayor’s priorities.
Earlier this week, Emanuel’s speech to college students at UCLA, where his son is a student, was interrupted by a handful of protesters opposed to the new training academy.
The new academy will be built on 30.4 acres of land that has stood stubbornly vacant for decades. Funding for the land will come from the surrounding tax-increment financing district.
Construction of the two-building campus will be bankrolled by: $20 million from the sale of a valuable North Side fleet maintenance facility, $5 million from the sale of the air rights above a River North fire station, and $23 million from the sale of existing police and fire facilities.
Fleet and Facilities Management Commissioner David Reynolds has said the city would work with the Chicago Infrastructure Trust to close the remaining $37 million gap, either through a “straight loan,” a lease buy-back arrangement or by issuing “bonds to pay for it ourselves.”