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IG audit to find out why 10 percent of police vehicles are sidelined

Inspector General Joe Ferguson said Tuesday he will conduct an audit in 2018 to determine why nearly 10 percent of Chicago Police vehicles — twice the industry standard — are “unavailable” because they are sidelined for maintenance. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

Inspector General Joe Ferguson said Tuesday he will conduct an audit in 2018 to determine why nearly 10 percent of Chicago Police vehicles — twice the industry standard — are “unavailable” because they are sidelined for maintenance.

In his annual audit plan, Ferguson said he will also seek to determine why “the average length of time” it takes the city’s Department of Fleet and Facilities Management to service police vehicles is 21.3 days, which “exceeds industry standards.”

Yet another 2018 audit will seek to determine whether the Chicago Police Department manages and maintains dashboard cameras and footage in an effective manner.

“In late 2015, responding to high profile cases that revealed police officers’ widespread failure to activate their vehicles’ on-board video and audio recording devices, CPD committed to enforcing policies requiring proper use of the equipment,” Ferguson wrote. “Failure to properly use video and audio equipment hinders investigations and undermines public trust in law enforcement.”

Earlier this year, Ferguson released a blistering audit that concluded Chicago is wasting millions on police overtime because of an “unchecked culture of abuse” and “inefficient management” that failed to control costs, eliminate fraud or prevent officer fatigue.

Police Supt. Eddie Johnson considered the audit so damaging to the department’s credibility, he rushed back to work to respond to the findings, even though he was only five weeks removed from a kidney transplant.

On Tuesday, Ferguson outlined his audit targets for 2018.

His targets include:

• Chicago Fire Department overtime that has “increased significantly” in recent years to $31.8 million through July 31 alone. The Fire Department’s budget includes $30 million for overtime for the entire year.

• Management, coordination and maintenance of Chicago’s 3,035 intersections with traffic signals. Ferguson cited studies in other major cities that show that traffic management improvements “can reduce wait times by 40 percent, cut travel time by 26 percent and reduce auto emissions by 21 percent.

• Reports that the Department of Buildings “may not be completing all field inspections” that are supposed to be required before city permits are issued. The audit will also include fee collections, noting that a 2014 audit showed the Department of Buildings failed to collect fees for 18 percent of elevator inspections over a one-year period.

• Construction projects that proceed without the required zoning approval, raising “safety and fairness concerns” and enforcement of the city mandate that contractors recycle construction and demolition debris.

• Whether Chicago businesses are complying with the city’s minimum wage ordinance. Last month, Ferguson accused the Emanuel administration of falling down on the job of enforcement when it comes to city contractors, allowing three subcontractors to underpay their employees by $291,816 over a three-year period.

• Whether the Department of Streets and Sanitation is doing enough to make certain that high-density and commercial building owners “procure recycling services.” Those buildings generate nearly 25 percent of Chicago waste and 42 percent of it is recyclable. But Ferguson cited a 2010 study that showed those buildings were actually recycling just 19 percent of the waste they generate.

• Oversight over the $2.3 billion in capital improvement projects at O’Hare and Midway Airports and whether oversight by the city’s Department of Aviation is enough to make certain public resources “are safeguarded against fraud, waste and abuse.”

• Whether construction costs for the water main replacement projects included in Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s 10-year overhaul “align with cost estimates and whether the Department of Water Management is doing enough to “hold contractors accountable for exceeding maximum completion times and failing to meet other contract provisions.”

In the audit plan, the inspector general noted that he gathers potential audit targets from a “variety of sources” that include complaints from the public phoned in to his hotline and “suggestions from governmental leadership.”