Top cop Garry McCarthy: I’m not ready to ask for more officers

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New police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, Monday, May 2, 2011. | Jean Lachat~Sun-Times

Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said Friday that it would be “unconscionable” to hire more officers now because his retooling of the department is not finished.

“I think it would be disingenuous to walk in and say, ‘I need more cops,’ ” McCarthy told the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board.

Until he can maximize the performance of the officers he has, McCarthy said: “I think it is unconscionable to hire more officers.”

McCarthy said he is still working to make the department run more efficiently with the officers at his disposal. McCarthy, who took office in May, said he isn’t done evaluating how many officers he needs in various positions. For example, McCarthy said there are currently about 1,000 detectives. He said he isn’t finished reviewing how many detectives the department needs, but added: “I would say we probably have too many.”

McCarthy, like every department head in Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration, is under orders to slash his budget. Emanuel will present his budget in October.

In August, McCarthy told the Chicago Sun-Times he was asked to cut about $190 million from his $1.3 billion budget. At the time, McCarthy said he could save about $93 million by eliminating vacancies in his budget. He said there are about 1,400 vacancies in the department’s budgeted strength of 13,500 officers. In August, the police union blasted the idea of eliminating vacancies to balance the budget as “Enron-style accounting.”

On Friday, McCarthy seemed to retreat from the proposal, saying: “I don’t want to eliminate positions. I want to hold on to them and not fill them. To eliminate them would be to cut off my nose to spite my face.” He said he might be able to fill those vacancies when economic conditions improve.

McCarthy said he intends to hire civilians to fill some administrative positions. He also said a new class of at least 50 officers will enter the police academy in October.

But McCarthy refused to discuss specifics of how he plans to slash his budget. “I don’t want to reveal where we’re going to go with the budget,” he said.

Since he took office in May, McCarthy has worked to fulfill Emanuel’s campaign pledge to put 1,000 more officers in patrol. So far, nearly 900 more officers have been placed in patrol after they were shifted from administrative jobs and from specialized units that have been disbanded. High-crime districts have received a larger share of patrol officers. In Englewood, for example, there are now more than 400 patrol officers. There were fewer than 300 before McCarthy took office, he said.

McCarthy points to a reduction in crime over every major category since he took office as evidence that his emphasis on putting officers in patrol is working.

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