Mayor Rahm Emanuel was urged Wednesday to permanently reassign police officers to gang-ravaged South Side and West Side districts instead of taking the political path of least resistance and assigning 600 additional officers only temporarily.
“We cannot continue to just move things around temporarily to get us past the weekend. We need a bold approach to make the entire city safe by putting `em where they’re needed and not where they’re wanted,” said Far South Side Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), former chairman of the City Council’s Police Committee.
“You go downtown and you still see an officer on every corner. You see `em on the Riverwalk. If you go into the community, you don’t have that same presence. We need to make this entire city safe and move those resources around from one end to the other.”
Beale said the reallocation that police Supt. Eddie Johnson promised two years ago — but failed to deliver — can be accomplished without putting North Side police districts at risk.
Whether aldermen will stand for it in the runup to the 2019 election — or whether Emanuel would risk the political fallout — is another story entirely.
“They’re gonna scream bloody murder. I get that because they feel that their community is being sacrificed, and it’s not,” Beale said of his colleagues.
“Our city has a black eye, and we need to heal that black eye. Sometimes, you have to piss some people off in order to do the right thing. Leadership is about making decisions that are unpopular. It’s an unpopular decision to move officers away from certain areas. But it will be beneficial to the entire city.”
Among those already screaming is Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41st), whose Far Northwest Side ward also includes the Jefferson Park District. He said a permanent reallocation of officers will occur “over my dead body.
“The 16th District is the largest district with the least amount of police officers,” Napolitano said. “Just because we don’t have homicides and shootings doesn’t mean we’re not escalating in other crimes.
“You want more police officers to work other districts, hire ’em off-duty. Start a faster hiring campaign. Bring back [the Violence Reduction Initiative]. But, if you’re gonna start reallocating officers from our district, which we have done, and we’re fighting for more — over my dead body.”
North Side Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) has been on the warpath about a drop in police manpower in a Town Hall District plagued by robberies and burglaries that runs contrary to a promise made in exchange for his vote for the largest property tax increase in Chicago history. After appealing to Johnson, he received additional officers but not nearly enough to restore the district to the 468 officers it had a few months after Emanuel took office.
On Wednesday, Tunney said he would not allow the mayor to rob Peter to pay Paul.
“We’re adding more police officers to the entire force,” Tunney said. ”We’re dealing with a lot of issues of retirement and the consent decree. It’s a stressful time for everybody.
“Tony is one voice and a respected voice. But every neighborhood is looking for more police. I’m going to fight for my resources up in my neighborhood. I understand we’ve got violence all over the city. But, if you talk to my neighbors in Lakeview, they want more police. I’m their representative, and I have to speak up for my residents.”
Northwest Side Ald. Nick Sposato (38th) said he, too, would not tolerate a reduction in officers.
“Some of my colleagues say the 16th district is the haves,” Sposato said. ”I don’t know how they can say we’re the haves when we have 33 square miles and 225 officers, when the 15th district is three square miles, and they have 325 officers.
“If they think they’re gonna take a certain percentage of officers out of my district, that’s not gonna happen without a serious fight from me. We’re under-resourced as it is. We’re fighting for more officers every day.”
Two years ago, Johnson appeared before aldermen with a promise to develop a ”fair, transparent and objective methodology” for determining where to assign both veteran police officers and the 970 reinforcements Emanuel has promised to hire over the next two years.
Johnson said then that a study that could lead to the police reallocation South Side and West Side aldermen have been demanding for years would be conducted by Alexander Weiss, a staffing expert, and Paul Evans, a former Boston police superintendent.
Weiss conducted a more cursory study for the Chicago Police Department in 2010. This time, aldermen were told the study would be far more extensive and include a host of factors ranging from calls for service, geography, and a balance between reactive and pro-active policing to “officer relief factors” that make certain officers are not overworked.
Under questioning from Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd), police officials said the study would take a fresh look at Emanuel’s controversial 2012 decision to close three district police stations — Wood, Prairie and Belmont.
One year later, aldermen asked about the study and were told the report was “still in draft form.”
Chief of Patrol Fred Waller also tempered expectations by saying the study would be a “baseline for allocation of resources” predicated only on calls for service and that the police department plans to take other factors into consideration, including geography.
That was the opposite of the description offered the year before.