Mayoral hopeful Jesus “Chuy” Garcia vowed Thursday to deliver on Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s broken promise to hire 1,000 additional Chicago Police officers, arguing that runaway overtime is no substitute for additional manpower.
Emanuel campaigned on a promise to hire 1,000 additional police officers then revised the pledge after taking office by adding 1,000 more “cops on the beat,” more than half of them by disbanding special units. The other half were primarily officers working desk jobs reassigned to street duty.
The mayor also balanced his first budget by eliminating more than 1,400 police vacancies, declaring an end to, what he called the annual “shell game” of budgeting for police jobs the city had no intention of filling.
When shootings and murders spiked and Chicago started making headlines as the nation’s murder capital, Emanuel used runaway overtime to tamp down the violence—the the tune of $100.3 million last year and $95 million this year.
On Thursday, Garcia argued that the mayor’s approach to fighting crime is simply not working.
Moonlighting police officers working ridiculous amounts of overtime not only get burned out. They don’t know the neighborhoods they parachute into and don’t build the kinds of ties to area residents that are needed to rebuild trust between citizens and police, Garcia said.
“He said he’d bring in 1,000 new police officers. That never materialized. They played some games about numbers and moving cops from desks to the street but it’s not fulfilling the promise that was made. The police department is still understaffed and we need to get it up to better levels to improve community policing,” Garcia told the Chicago Sun-Times.
Emanuel has argued that overtime is a more flexible and cost-effective substitute for police hiring because the city doesn’t have to bear the cost of pensions and benefits for new officers.
Garcia begs to differ.
“Rahm doesn’t understand the neighborhoods and community policing and the urgency of having enough police officers,” Garcia said.
“The officers that are being used today are being sent from other areas to neighborhoods they’re not familiar with. That will not give you the deep relationships needed to create mutual trust and respect.”
Pressed on how he would pay for the 1,000 additional officers, Garcia said, “We pay about $100 million-a-year for overtime. That was last year’s cost and that’s where we’re headed this year. That goes a long way toward paying for the hiring. It would cost about $111 million. Finding $11 million additionally isn’t that much.”
Emanuel sloughed off the claim that he broke a pivotal campaign promise.
“We have taken officers from behind the desks to put `em behind the wheels. We have dramatically increased our after-school and summer jobs investment. And we have to consistently work at making sure we figure out a way to get guns off the street. We had a stark reminder this weekend of the consequences of that,” Emanuel said of the murder of 16-year-old Demario Bailey.
“We eliminated ghost positions. We put more officers on the street by better practices. Before I go to ask the taxpayers for more money, why is an officer behind a desk and not behind a wheel when they were trained to be behind the wheel or walking a beat? We weren’t doing that as a city.”