CITY HALL — Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41st) — a former firefighter and police officer who hails from a family of law enforcement officers — said an audit by the city watchdog that found the Chicago Police Department wasted millions of dollars on overtime will be used to "demonize" officers.
"It is going to kill morale," said Napolitano, whose ward is home to many families of police officers and firefighters. "It is going to demonize police, again. I can't sit for that."
The audit by Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson found that the pen-and-paper system used by the Police Department to track overtime spending is fundamentally "deficient" and has placed a "significant" financial burden on Chicago taxpayers. It also said there was a "culture of abuse" of the system.
While praising Ferguson for his work to root out waste, fraud and abuse, Napolitano said the audit was written in a way that presented the Police Department's outdated system that needs improvement in the worst possible light.
"We are asking these officers to work their butts off, and then we do this to them," Napolitano said, his voice rising in anger.
Napolitano said he he expressed his concerns about the audit to Ferguson after the watchdog briefed aldermen, who gasped when the inspector general outlined his findings.
In his first remarks on the audit, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Wednesday at an unrelated event that he would spend what was necessary to keep Chicagoans safe.
However, Emanuel said there was no excuse for officers being "careless with the public purse."
After insisting that it was cheaper to pay current officers overtime than hire new officers, Emanuel in October 2016 agreed to hire 970 new officers — and fill 500 vacant positions — as part of a sweeping effort to remake the department in the wake of the death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who was shot 16 times by a Chicago police officer.
Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) said Wednesday he was not surprised by the audit's findings, and blamed a "small group of officers" for taking advantage of loopholes.
However, Beale said the department's reliance on overtime to fight crime was "a monster created by" former Police Supt. Garry McCarthy, who is being pushed to run against Emanuel for mayor.
Among the audit's findings:
• The city has no documentation for $27.6 million paid to officers for overtime work from Jan. 1, 2014 to Jan. 1, 2016.
• Officers were allowed to approve overtime payments to themselves from 2014-16, a practice which totaled $1 million. Johnson called that "absolutely unacceptable" and said it would be prohibited from now on.
• About $40 million worth of overtime was approved by "peers or subordinates of the member who earned the overtime, with more than 600 instances of two-way relationships in which CPD members approved each other's overtime in a reciprocal manner," from 2014-16.
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