Vallas teases solution for dismal homicide clearance rate

SHARE Vallas teases solution for dismal homicide clearance rate

Former Chicago Public Schools CEO and Mayoral Candidate Paul Vallas | Rich Hein/Sun-Times file photo

Mayoral challenger Paul Vallas on Friday proposed a return to five detective areas, instead of three, and the hiring of retired detectives to reverse Chicago’s dismal homicide clearance rate.

“It’s kind of crazy to have three divisions. That only provides a longer distance of time when it comes to traveling to crime scenes,” Vallas said during a taping of the WBBM-AM Radio program, “At Issue,” to be broadcast at 9:30 p.m. Sunday.

“I’m gonna…not only rebuild the detective division to 1,200, [but] re-establish five divisions instead of three. I’m gonna …bring retired detectives in, like they did in New York and other cities. You can’t have a clearance rate of four percent on shootings and 17 percent on murders. Despite their frantic efforts to beef up the detective division, the detectives that are joining the division don’t have a whole lot of experience.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel balanced his first budget by eliminating more than 1,400 police vacancies, merging police and fire headquarters, reducing police and detective areas from five to three and closing three district police stations: Wood, Belmont and Prairie.

That started a downward spiral that, coupled with attrition, forced the mayor to rely on runaway overtime when shootings and murders spiked.

For years, Emanuel argued that overtime was a cost effective substitute for police hiring that allowed the city to avoid paying pensions and benefits. In September, 2016, the mayor abruptly reversed field and embarking on a two-year hiring surge that will add 970 additional officers by the end of this year.

More than a year into that surge, 14 of the city’s 22 police districts now have fewer beat cops than they did when the push was announced, the Chicago Sun-Times has reported.

On Monday, Vallas will unveil his own comprehensive policing plan. That’s what he was teasing on Friday.

“I’m gonna talk about staffing. I’m gonna talk about resource utilization. I’m gonna talk about what needs to be done so you can ensure that police officers are not just being pulled from districts randomly to deal with the latest hot spots,” Vallas said.

“Rather, you have a core group of officers in the districts. If you’re gonna pay them overtime, you give them overtime to provide more policing in those individual districts. You need to have the support units, the flex units available so you can target those areas that are high-crime without robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

The Chicago Police Department’s in-service training came under heavy scrutiny when the U.S. Department of Justice investigated the department after the court-ordered release of the Laquan McDonald shooting video and found “severely deficient training procedures.”

Police Supt. Eddie Johnson responded to that blistering critique by mandating that every officer undergo 40 annual hours of in-service training by 2021 focusing on officers use of force, police pursuits of criminal suspects, civil and human rights, as well as officers’ and civilians’ mental health.

Officers will gradually build up to the 40 annual hours in the years before 2021. Last year, they were required for four hours, and this year they were on the hook for 16. In 2019, 32 hours will be mandated with the 40-hour policy going into effect the next year.

That’s not good enough for Vallas. He wants more “redundant training.”

“In the military, there’s redundant training. People are trained again and again and again on those same tasks. That redundant training is what brings accountability and effective command and control,” said Vallas, a former company commander in the Illinois National Guard.

Vallas served as revenue director and budget director under former Mayor Richard M. Daley before being dispatched to the Chicago Public Schools as CEO in a dream- team pairing with then School Board President Gery Chico, who had been Daley’s chief of staff.

The career bureaucrat hopes to stand out in a crowded field of mayoral challengers by wowing Chicago with his breadth of knowledge and experience and detailed plans.

Monday’s unveiling of a policing plan — and the money to pay for it — will be his first crack at that ideas-first, issue-oriented strategy.

He plans to unveil similarly-detailed plans on city finances, education and economic development.

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