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Emanuel welcomes 8th class this year to police academy

Mayor Rahm Emanuel greeted new Chicago Police Academy recruits last year. | Fran Spielman/Sun-Times

Mayor Rahm Emanuel greeted new Chicago Police Academy recruits last year. | Fran Spielman/Sun-Times

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday welcomed the eighth class of police recruits to enter the academy this year and claimed to be on pace to deliver on his two-year pledge to hire 970 additional police officers over and above attrition.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported earlier this year that the Chicago Police Department was on pace to set another record for overtime spending in 2017 after racking up
$30.9 million in overtime during January, February and March alone — colder months during which crime typically is lower.

That’s a whopping 26.6 percent increase from the $24.4 million spent on overtime during the same period last year, when the Police Department set a new record for overtime spending.

In his remarks to the 111 recruits Tuesday, Emanuel insisted the two-year hiring surge was on schedule.

“This is our eighth class, [each] averaging around 100. So we’re doing one class-a-month of new recruits,” the mayor told the rookies.

“There’s 500 already in this building. More officers on the street. We’re following our pledge. It’s a two-year pledge of putting about 970 more officers in the department patrolling our neighborhoods. More than just patrolling it. Being a part of it.”

City Hall finally responded Tuesday to a long overdue Freedom of Information request for a status report on the two-year hiring surge.

The Emanuel administration claimed that 334 police officers have retired since Jan.1 while 678 recruits have entered the academy to begin six months of training.

Although the hiring spree started with hundreds of police vacancies, the mayor’s office claimed that CPD already has 12,320 sworn officers, more than 400 more than it did just eight months ago.

“We are well on the way to growing the size of the police department by nearly 1,000 sworn officers by the end of 2018,” the mayor’s office claimed.

In addition to the waves of recruits, 52 Lieutenants, 142 Sergeants, 266 Detectives and 122 Field Training Officers have been promoted.

Asked Tuesday why overtime is still surging, Emanuel yielded the microphone to Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson.

“When you add individuals, it takes time for those things to balance out. After we catch up with attrition and the vacancies that we had initially, along with the people that we’re putting in, we’ll get to the point where overtime will start coming down,” Johnson said.

“I will not sacrifice public safety for money. We still have an obligation to the citizens of this city to keep them as safe as we can. At a point, those things will start to balance out. We just started this aggressive hiring program. These recruits will become official police officers in a year-and-a-half. So, we still have a ways to go before that’ll all catch up.”

On the day applications open for yet another police exam this year, Johnson told the new class he has been pleasantly surprised by Emanuel’s commitment to “dedicate the resources we need to become a model agency for the nation” after the Justice Department’s scathing indictment triggered by the 2014 police shooting of Laquan McDonald.

“When I first took the job of superintendent, I wasn’t sure what we were gonna get in terms of the support that we need,” Johnson said.

“One of the things he’s done that I thought I would never see … is a new training facility. Unfortunately, you all will be out before it’s actually completed. But the fact that we’re getting one is huge.”

Emanuel told the rookies he’s not done yet. He and Johnson were on their way to the Englewood District to showcase predictive analytics — including shot-spotter technology and new cameras monitored by a strategic deployment center — to potential donors in the private sector.

“We’re gonna try to raise the resources to take that to a few more districts … because of the unbelievable success that technology, plus better training, better leadership” has produced, the mayor said.

The 111 rookies actually start their training on Wednesday. But they were asked to show up a day early for, what Human Resources called a “meet and greet with the mayor.”

“You must dress in business attire. Your attendance is strongly recommended and encouraged. You will have an opportunity to speak with Mayor Emanuel and some of your Police Academy instructors. You can expect to be there a couple of hours,” the email states.

A police insider sent the email to the Chicago Sun-Times, along with a snide remark:

“So, CPD calls in police recruits one day earlier than their start date for a staged media photo with the mayor and [superintendent]. Unbelievable.”