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Chicago Police Department on pace to spend $200M on overtime

Chicago police say robberies are way down this year. | File photo

The Chicago Police Department is on pace to spend nearly $200 million on overtime in 2017 — 40 percent more than last year’s record — despite a two-year hiring surge intended to allow for attrition and bolster the force by 970 officers.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported in July that officers racked up $30.9 million in overtime during January, February and March alone — cold-weather months when crime typically is lower.

That was 26.6 percent more than the $24.4 million spent on overtime during the same period last year, when City Hall set a record by spending $143 million on police overtime.

Records released Monday in response to a Freedom of Information Request show the pace of overtime spending has quickened considerably.

Through July 31, the police department had spent $95 million on overtime, including $30 million for July alone — nearly 39 percent more than July overtime spending last year.

The Chicago Fire Department recorded $31.8 million in overtime spending through July 31. The fire department’s budget includes $30 million for overtime for the entire year.

Since billing for police overtime routinely runs from a month to six weeks behind, overtime billing for July, typically the heaviest month of the year because of events like Taste of Chicago and Lollapalooza, will not be reflected until August.

It also means the Chicago Police Department is on pace to spend $200 million on overtime in 2017. The police budget includes $75 million for overtime for the entire year.

Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said the department “strategically increases overtime” in summer “to correspond with” the traditional warm-weather crime surge.

“This year, strategic deployments of summer mobile and area saturation teams were also coupled with the department working towards its goal of growing the size of the police department by nearly 1,000 officers by the end of 2018,” Guglielmi wrote in an email. “With these deployment strategies, coupled with strengthening the tools, technology and training available for officers, we are seeing signs of progress.”

Guglielmi said the department is working to better “manage overtime, including through a long-awaited “swiping policy” that will replace paper timesheets with electronic time-keeping.

“The police department is on track to completely enroll all CPD personnel at headquarters and in half the districts by mid-2018 with the remaining districts transitioned in mid-2019, if not sooner,” he wrote.

What’s troubling about the continued surge in overtime spending is that it occurred as the police academy churned out a virtual conveyor belt of classes needed to comply with Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s two-year hiring surge.

Emanuel spent years arguing that overtime was 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.

In late September 2016, the mayor reversed course. Days before a major policy address on the outbreak of violence, Emanuel unveiled plans to fill hundreds of police vacancies and still add 970 police officers.

Over a two-year period, the police department has promised to add 516 patrol officers, 92 field-training officers, 112 sergeants, 50 lieutenants and 200 detectives.

READ MORE: CITY HAUL: More than a third of Chicago’s city workers make $100K-plus, Aug. 27, 2017

Last month, Emanuel 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 police hiring pledge.

Asked then why overtime was still surging, police Supt. Eddie Johnson said: “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.”

But Johnson said he won’t “sacrifice public safety for money,” adding: “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 Monday, City Hall provided another status report on the two-year hiring surge.

The Emanuel administration said there are 12,410 sworn positions filled across all sworn ranks, up from 11,913 sworn positions on Jan. 1. According to City Hall, 801 police officers have entered the academy since Jan. 1, including the 110 patrol officers who will start in the academy next week.

In addition, there have been 582 promotions since Jan. 1 to the ranks of lieutenant, sergeant, detective and field-training officer, officials said.

The city’s figures run contrary to claims made by a popular blog known as “Crime in Wrigleyville and Boystown.” Citing deployment figures provided by City Hall, the blog reported that Chicago had a net gain of just 37 officers since the mayor announced the two-year hiring surge and that 17 of the city’s 22 police districts have lost officers.

City Hall said Monday its hiring numbers are accurate.