The honeymoon didn’t last long.
Just one day after he was sworn in as the new leader of the Chicago Police Department, Supt. David Brown found himself apologizing to several aldermen from the North and Northwest sides for a plan that took dozens of officers from their wards Wednesday and shipped them to the West Side to curb gun crime and help enforce the state’s stay-at-home order.
Brown had a conference call Thursday afternoon with more than a half dozen aldermen whose wards were affected by the change in deployment.
“He came out and apologized immediately and said, ‘I’m sorry that I blindsided you guys with this,’ ” said Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41st), whose Northwest Side ward is home to scores of police officers, firefighters and other city employees. “He apologized that he had no warning for us.”
The order mandated that officers from police districts across the North Side and Northwest Side be sent to the Harrison District on the West Side — long one of the most violent areas of the city, where open-air drug markets are common.
A department spokeswoman confirmed Brown apologized to the aldermen and said the new superintendent “will take what [the aldermen] said under consideration, but the department is continuing the operation with the goal of saving lives.”
Department officials said they “unveiled a new strategy last night to deploy resources citywide to districts with the greatest need with the goal of reducing murders and shootings to save lives.”
Other districts that received extra officers were Gresham, Englewood and Deering on the South Side, the department said.
“This approach will include officers from operations, specialized units, every detective area, community policing as well as our partners in street outreach in federal agencies,” the statement said.
“The surge strategy is designed to be unpredictable and will be conducted at all hours of the day and in all parts of the city. This strategy does not inhibit the department’s ability to respond to calls for service in all 22 districts citywide.”
On Friday morning, the department will also launch “Operation Clean,” a source said.
City agencies will meet at the intersection of Springfield Avenue and Madison Street to focus on cleaning lots, litter and overgrown weeds. The boundaries of the operation are Madison Street and Jackson Boulevard from Hamlin to Karlov avenues on the West Side, the source said.
Harrison District officers have issued hundreds of dispersal orders — police directives telling citizens to stop congregating outside — during the coronavirus pandemic.
Between March 25 and April 21, there have been nearly 1,450 dispersals of groups in the Harrison District alone and nearly 3,750 citywide. A total of 17 arrests have been made citywide regarding the shelter-at-home order.
The Harrison District has nearly 1,000 more calls for police action regarding the stay-at-home order than other nearby districts, officials say.
Wednesday night’s “surge mission” was also performed in an effort to limit how many people were outdoors during the stay-at-home order, officials said.
A video posted to social media Monday shows dozens of people getting into a heated but nonviolent confrontations with officers at Madison Street and Springfield Avenue in the Harrison District.
Napolitano said his residents were enraged by the deployment order.
“My f------ ward is f------ furious that this is happening and it’s absolutely unacceptable,” said Napolitano, himself a former Chicago police officer. “I get that there’s crime in other places in the city — I get it — but you can’t rob Peter to pay Paul to protect the city. Our residents deserve just as much security by the police force as anyone else does in this city.
“We shouldn’t be punished up here because we’re not stepping over dead bodies.”
The order was made known to police around 4 p.m. Wednesday, according to a source familiar with the deployment.
Officers from North and Northwest side districts were being sent to the West Side— just west of the Harrison District — for a similar surge mission Thursday night.
Deploying officers to the Harrison District has happened before, though there is typically more notice given, according to a veteran supervising officer whose district shipped officers to the West Side.
“This one, we really didn’t see coming,” the source said.
Through the first three-and-a-half months of 2020, the Harrison District has seen — by a wide margin — the most violence of any of Chicago’s 22 districts. As of April 15, the district had recorded 21 murders and another 58 nonfatal shootings. The Gresham District on the South Side is, to date, the next most violent, with 16 murders and 21 nonfatal shootings.