CHICAGO — Mayor Rahm Emanuel is moving about 200 cops from desk duty to the street, sending dozens out on "saturation teams" as soon as this weekend.
At a news conference on the South Side, the mayor said 60 officers will soon be moved from administrative and clerical duties onto the streets. By the end of March, the redeployment will expand to include the 200 extra officers.
"We have an obligation to act as quickly as possible," Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said.
Emanuel said the decision follows last week's recommendation by city Inspector General Joseph Ferguson, who suggested in a report that more desk-duty cops could be deployed in neighborhoods, with clerical positions filled by civilians, a notion both Emanuel and McCarthy endorsed.
"We should have clerks doing clerical work," McCarthy said. "If we're hiring officers to be clerks, we're being inefficient."
The reassignment comes as a harsh national spotlight shines on Chicago because of the city's homicide count and the slaying of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton at a park near King College Prep, where she was a sophomore.
The killing has caused a national outpouring of grief, as Pendleton was described as a joyous teenager and smart student who recently had performed at the inauguration of President Barack Obama. She appeared in an anti-gang video five years ago, urging people to say "no" to gangs.
Police have posted a $14,000 reward for information on the shooting, and Emanuel has joined others in urging an end to the "snitch" culture and for witnesses to come forward.
The reassignments had been considered since Ferguson issued his IG report, if not before, and Emanuel emphasized that he had already moved 570 cops out of desk jobs and into street patrols, but the Pendleton slaying added urgency.
"This has happened before. It has been ongoing and it will happen again," McCarthy said of the reassignments. "We have an obligation to act as quickly as possible."
The "saturation teams" are being deployed where they're needed in the city. McCarthy said of the 60 being reassigned this weekend, 30 were going to Area Central Headquarters, where he and Emanuel made the announcement Thursday, and 15 each to Area North and Area South. The additional 140 will be allotted throughout the city by the end of March.
"Geographical accountability is the word of the day," McCarthy said, re-emphasizing how district commanders are being given the resources to get results and "drive down crime" — and are held accountable.
"We have to get our hands around the gun violence and the gang activity," Emanuel added. He said he wouldn't ask taxpayers to pay for more police officers until they had made maximum use of the officers already on the force.
"I hope the desk jockeys will be enough," added Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th). "But we need to wait and see."
Emanuel said he wasn't worried about Chicago's perception as the U.S. murder capital nationwide so much as he was focused on the reality on the streets. "My main role, my main priority isn't the image, it's getting the results I need," Emanuel said. "Then the public relations will take care of itself."