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500 New Officers To Be Part Of Renewed Community Policing Push: Top Cop

By Heather Cherone | October 27, 2016 5:12pm
 Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson told the City Council reviewing the department's $1.5 billion budget that the force was on much firmer footing than a year ago.
Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson told the City Council reviewing the department's $1.5 billion budget that the force was on much firmer footing than a year ago.
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DNAinfo/Heather Cherone

CITY HALL — About  500 new police officers set to be hired over the next two years will patrol the city and partner with residents as part of a renewed focus on community policing, Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson told aldermen during a budget review Thursday.

Johnson said he had asked a panel of experts, Police Department leaders and residents to develop a "strategic plan" for collaborating with neighborhoods to fight crime and restore trust between police and residents.

Handpicked by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in March to lead the department after a police officer fatally shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, Johnson said he took office "at a time of unparalleled challenge."

"The public did not believe we were willing to listen and work with the community," Johnson said, but after a "top-to-bottom" review, significant progress has been made in restoring the trust between the department and Chicagoans.

Noting that Chicago was once hailed as nationwide role model for its efforts to change the way police officers tackled their jobs, Johnson said the renewed emphasis on community policing would "better embrace the critical role the community can and should play in addressing issues of crime."

"We can achieve that again," Johnson said, adding that community policing is his "core philosophy."

"The job of every officer is to reduce crime and help restore trust," Johnson said.

Johnson's seven-month tenure drew high marks from several aldermen, who praised him for revamping the department's command structure to make it the most diverse in the city's history.

"I couldn't be more proud of the department," said 30th Ward Ald. Ariel Reboyras, chairman of the City Council's Public Safety Committee.

Community policing efforts throughout the city have been stretched thin after years of budget cuts and a greater emphasis on arrests and violence suppression.

Johnson told the City Council reviewing the department's $1.5 billion budget that the force was on much firmer footing than a year ago, when it was rocked by the video showing McDonald's death. Officer Jason Van Dyke, who was fired, has been charged in connection with McDonald's death.

The department is set to grow by 970 positions: 516 police officers, 200 detectives, 112 sergeants, 50 lieutenants and 92 field training officers.

To meet Johnson's goal, the city must enroll 100 new recruits per month through 2018 in its six-month training academy, city officials said.

Johnson pledged to make those new officers as diverse as the city they will be charged with policing.

The department also will fill 500 vacant positions, Johnson said.

With the training academy churning out rookie officers, the Police Department will move its training for veteran officers to facilities operated by the City Colleges of Chicago and DeVry University.

Veteran officers must be trained on the department's de-escalation tactics and a new use-of-force policy.

Plans are in the works to eventually replace the training facility at 1300 W. Jackson Blvd. with a new location somewhere on the South or West side, Johnson said.

The new officers will be deployed based on a statistical analysis compiled by a consultant based on crime data, calls for services and district geography, Johnson said.

The department had not done an adequate job of staffing all districts while struggling to cope with violence in the city, leaving a "back door open in good neighborhoods to property crime," Johnson said.

In September,  the superintendent agreed to send more officers to the Far Northwest Side after four aldermen complained.

Under questioning from  46th Ward Ald. James Cappleman, who said that he has been roundly criticized for police staffing levels in Uptown and Andersonville, Johnson said the officers will be deployed based on statistical analysis, "common sense" and consultation with aldermen.

The cost for the new officers will be covered by a projected increase in revenue from an improving economy, revenue from a 7-cent tax on shopping bags, a new charge for parking in Downtown loading zones and doubling the cost to park around Wrigley Field during special events.

City officials expect the plastic bag fee to generate $9.2 million.

Cars and trucks making deliveries and pickups in Downtown loading zones are expected to feed the new meters $13 million, officials said.

In previous budgets, the mayor has resisted calls from aldermen to hire new police personnel, instead reshuffling officers and expanding overtime shifts.

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