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'We Have To Do Better,' Top Cop Says, Announces 970 New Police Hires

By  Ted Cox Joe Ward and Lizzie Schiffman Tufano | September 21, 2016 7:47am | Updated on September 21, 2016 3:12pm

"The mayor delivered for us," Supt. Eddie Johnson said in announcing the hiring of 970 more police officers.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

CHICAGO — Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson, in what was billed as a "major policy address," confirmed Wednesday the hiring of 970 new police personnel over the next two years, saying "we have to do better."

Speaking to dozens of Chicago Police officers attending a news conference at Department Headquarters, 3510 S. Michigan Ave., Johnson said, "I also want to assure you that we will have the resources to do your jobs well, and so today I'm announcing a major new hiring initiative."

By adding 100 new recruits a month through 2018 to also address attrition and 400 currently vacant positions, Johnson said the department will go from 12,656 sworn officers to 13,535. The expansion will begin in the Englewood and Harrison districts.

 Police Supt. Eddie Johnson and Ald. Ariel Reboyras, chairman of the Public Safety Committee, walk into Wednesday's news conference.
Police Supt. Eddie Johnson and Ald. Ariel Reboyras, chairman of the Public Safety Committee, walk into Wednesday's news conference.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

Johnson allowed that it's "not an easy time to be a police officer." Pointing to the widespread availability of video and images shot on cellphones, he said, "Our mistakes are amplified."

In Chicago in particular, "the whole world is watching us closely," he said, "and we welcome the scrutiny."

Yet he made it clear that "I will not tolerate intentional misconduct, and no one is permitted to dishonor the star that we all wear."

Johnson vowed to equip the department with the tools and support necessary to meet the mission of fighting crime while respecting the public's rights.

"The truth is, we can't pull officers from the safer communities and to the more violent ones," Johnson said. "Gang members will figure that out and shift their operations.

"We need more patrol officers, and we need them where they're needed most," Johnson added. "This will make us a bigger department, a better department and a more effective department."

The hiring push does not include officers being brought on to replace retiring police, meaning that it will "increase the total authorized strength" of the department, said Anthony Guglielmi, a Chicago Police Department spokesman.

According to Guglielmi, the 970 new hires will include 516 police officers, 200 detectives, 112 sergeants, 50 lieutenants and 92 field training officers.

The superintendent praised Mayor Rahm Emanuel for signing off on the hires and promotions, saying, "The mayor delivered for us."

Johnson, however, did not have details on how the hiring — estimated to cost $134 million — would be paid for,

"I'm a crime-fighter," he said. "That's what I do. I don't worry about the financial aspects of it."

Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30th), chairman of the Public Safety Committee, jokingly said only that it would be "mucho dinero."

At an earlier event, Emanuel was asked how the new officers would be paid for. The mayor said funding for the new police positions will not come from new taxes, but he did not say where the funding would come from.

“I’m not going to propose something that is not paid for. We are going to do the tough and necessary thing and go line by line and find the resources," Emanuel said.

Emanuel said he told his budget staff that his No. 1 priority in next year's budget is public safety. 

"We as a city are paying for this today in lost lives," Emanuel said. "We won't raise property taxes. We won't raise taxes to pay for it."

Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th), called the hiring "a good first step," adding, "The good news to me is we're not just making up for attrition. This is in addition to the staff members we have now."

The Police Department in the past has opted against hiring more officer, choosing instead to reshuffle personnel or increase overtime staffing. But after this year's historic surge in shootings, some communities have vowed to hire private security if police don't beef up their ranks.

Emanuel hinted at the hirings at an event earlier this month.

Salaries, benefits and supervision of the new officers will cost the city about $138,000 apiece the year they're hired, and almost $134 million over the long term, the Sun-Times reported.

After officers are hired, they typically spend about six months training before being able to take the test that earns them a badge.

 Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said the Department would add 100 new recruits a month through 2018 to bring it up to 13,535 sworn officers.
Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said the Department would add 100 new recruits a month through 2018 to bring it up to 13,535 sworn officers.
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DNAinfo/Kelly Bauer

The Police Department has been budgeted for 12,500 sworn officers for years, and Emanuel has resisted efforts to add more positions, instead relying on overtime to address spikes in crime and street violence.

Budget Director Alexandra Holt testified before City Council committees three years ago that an officer's starting salary was $43,000, but total costs that first year were $76,000, including benefits, and "the costs begin to accumulate quite quickly," with an officer's salary topping $100,000 within four years.

Two years ago, Holt estimated the cost of hiring an officer at $100,000, meaning 1,000 officers would cost the city $100 million.

Lopez said budgeting is a "secondary" concern. "For me, this is a moral issue about being able to keep our citizens safe," he said. "If our communities are not safe, if our citizens are not safe, then arguing about how to pay for it seems pretty petty."

Dean Angelo Sr., president of the local Fraternal Order of Police union, said recently that the Police Department was down 1,500 sworn officers from the 13,500 employed under Mayor Richard M. Daley, with 500 budgeted positions vacant.

This week, former Police Supt. Garry McCarthy, a defender of the overtime policy under Emanuel, said more officers "wouldn't hurt" in getting the city's murders and shootings under control.

McCarthy suggested strategically assigning police was just as important as hiring them, and Lopez echoed that Wednesday, saying, "Putting more police on the North Shore because they're experiencing purse snatchings is not as important as helping the residents of Back of the Yards or Englewood, where they're facing shootings every day."

Johnson said the positions would be filled from those who passed the latest Department exam, which included 71 percent minority applicants. Yet he also pointedly added, "Instead of protesting the police, fill out an application and become one."

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