Police union leaders on Monday urged Mayor Rahm Emanuel to modify his plan to assign 40 state troopers on 30-day loan to Chicago to serve fugitive warrants to get known criminals off the street.
Dean Angelo, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 representing Chicago Police Officers, and Mike Powell, president of the FOP’s Illinois Trooper Lodge No. 41, said it makes more sense to assign state troopers to traffic duty to free Chicago Police officers for the “real police work” chasing fugitives.
“You’re taking troopers from rural areas out of their element and thrusting them into the big city. There should always be concern about that. That’s just a matter of geography,” Powell said.
“The Chicago Police Department knows the city. They know some of the folks they’re looking for. They recognize them. They’ve dealt with them. [Using them to chase fugitives] would be a smarter, better use of resources.”
Angelo noted that every police district has “a traffic cop or traffic cars” to handle traffic accidents and DUIs. That’s a responsibility state troopers can “easily handle,” freeing up Chicago Police officers to do “police work,” he said.
“That makes a lot more sense than sending troopers into areas they’re not familiar with. If they’re involved in a foot chase, our guys know exactly where they’re at. The troopers are not going to be that familiar with the neighborhoods of Chicago,” Angelo said.
“I don’t know why we’re taking people completely out of their element and supplementing the lack of manpower in Chicago. It’s a nice, temporary fix that will assist our daily activity without fixing anything. The focus has got to be on the need for more police officers. We can’t lose sight of that.”
Illinois State Police spokesperson Monique Bond said the plan to have 40 state troopers serve fugitive warrants in four high-crime Chicago neighborhoods beginning later this week was “formulated” by the Chicago Police Department.
“The plan is in place. Our role is to support the request. If there are issues, it should be taken up with the Chicago Police Department,” she said.
Chicago Police spokesman Martin Maloney responded to the FOP’s concerns in a statement that makes it clear there will be no changes in the mayor’s plan. City and state police offiicals are “working closely together to ensure this expanded partnership is a success for all involved,” Maloney wrote.
“This expansion of our existing partnership will now have State Police officers working side-by-side with CPD officers, ensuring the safety of all officers and putting more resources behind our efforts to arrest wanted fugitives. The officers will be working in integrated teams and they will all have access to CPD’s real-time intelligence, ensuring that knowledge of the geography or crime conditions are not an issue,” Maloney wrote.
“This more timely apprehension of wanted offenders further enhances previously established crime control strategies currently implemented by the Superintendent and Mayor, and greatly reduces the opportunity for career criminal to re-offend.”
Last week, Emanuel emerged from an anti-violence meeting at Kennedy-King College to announce that he had accepted Gov. Pat Quinn’s offer to free up 40 state troopers for one month to serve fugitive warrants in Chicago.
Hours later, the governor’s office issued a press release acknowledging that a deal had been cut to create as many as 25 “surge teams” — each including five Chicago Police officers and two state troopers —to focus on apprehending those with “known violent criminal histories who are wanted by law enforcement.”
The effort will be quarterbacked by State Police Colonel and chief of operations Michael Zerbonia. He’s a brigadier general in the Illinois National Guard with more than 30 years of military expertise, including service in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Emanuel balanced his first budget by eliminating more than 1,400 police vacancies.
Although the mayor has more recently done enough police hiring to keep pace with attrition, Angelo argued Monday that the Chicago Police Department is “anywhere from 1,500 to 2,500 officers down from where we should be manpower-wise.”
Pressed on where the money would come from to bolster police hiring, Angelo said, “We have 50 aldermen. A lot of people would argue that’s too many. I took a pay cut. Maybe that’s something other people should do.”
Angelo also set his sights on the $66 million-a-year aldermanic menu program that gives each of the 50 City Council members $1.32 million to spend on neighborhood infrastructure projects of their own choosing.
“If everybody is so concerned about crime, let’s go to the City Council and ask, `Who wants to give back half of that money to hire more police and make our neighborhoods safer, and if they’re not, why aren’t they?’ You can’t have it both ways,” Angelo said.
“Let’s track some of that money. Is it all going to street lights, potholes and sidewalks? Or is it picnics, parades and T-shirts? If $1.3 million in every ward is really going to neighborhood improvements, God bless. Our streets should look like the Autobahn. And we know that’s not happening.”