Chicago Police officers will turn into clock watchers because of an audit on alleged overtime abuse that amounts to a “crock of b.s.,” Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41st) said Wednesday.
The City Council’s champion for Chicago Police officers lashed out at Inspector General Joe Ferguson one day after Ferguson concluded that Chicago is wasting millions on police overtime because of an “unchecked culture of abuse” and “inefficient management” that has failed to control costs, eliminate fraud or prevent officer fatigue.
Napolitano has served the city as both a police officer and firefighter. His Far Northwest Side ward is home to scores of Chicago Police officers.
On Wednesday, he accused the inspector general of playing with fire.
“What are we doing here? Are we telling them to be the police or not be the police? To be pro-active or reactive?” Napolitano said.
“We don’t have enough officers. They’re working their butts off to try and save a city with a ridiculous crime rate. Now, we’re saying, `You’re stealing money from the city.’ Do you want them to make arrests? Do you want them to destroy crime or don’t you? Pick one side or the other. Either tell them you want them to work hard and lock up the criminals or tell them to go home when the bell rings.”
Napolitano acknowledged that the Chicago Police Department is stuck in the Dark Ages with a paper time-keeping system that major companies and most city departments have long since abandoned.
He also acknowledged there are isolated instances when individual officers might put in for “a little bit more” overtime than they actually worked.
But the former cop categorically denied Ferguson’s allegations about a “culture of abuse” and ridiculed the inspector general’s claims that the overtime scams are so prevalent, there are names for them: “trolling,” “paper jumping,” “lingering” and “DUI guys.”
Ferguson’s poster child for a “DUI guy” was an officer who made 56 DUI arrests, presumably so he could appear in court and get the overtime.
“What’s the percentage from other officers in the district? How many DUIs have they written? Probably zero. If we have one officer writing 56 that specializes in this, are we gonna say, `Don’t do that anymore because you’re getting too much overtime?’ Are we gonna allow DUI drivers to be on the street because one guy specializes in one of the hardest arrests to prove in court?” Napolitano said.
The alderman pointed to what happened eight months ago, when only six officers showed up for work on the third watch in the Jefferson Park District.
“I should have had closer to 25 or 30. If one of those six gets a late call, should they not go on overtime?” he said.
“We’re losing cases in court because there’s not enough people to corroborate a story. Are we telling officers, `Don’t show up? Don’t witness these trials taking place?’”
For months, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been walking a political tightrope.
He’s been trying to craft a new system of police accountability to restore public trust shattered by his handling of the Laquan McDonald shooting video.
And he’s been trying just as desperately to coax Chicago Police officers concerned about being caught on the next YouTube video out of a defensive crouch blamed for a precipitous drop in arrests and other police activity.
Napolitano argued that Ferguson’s audit will make the mayor’s job infinitely more difficult.
“This is absolutely gonna destroy morale,” he said.
Emanuel was careful not to criticize the inspector general’s audit, even as he vowed to spare no expense when it comes to public safety.
“Whether that’s the summer surge, whether that’s the tact and gang units or whether that’s preparing for the [Chicago] Marathon, we’re gonna [do] whatever’s necessary to make sure we have secure, safe streets as well as secure, safe events,” the mayor said.
“But, that’s not an excuse for being careless and reckless with the public purse.”