CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago’s police department will add nearly 1,000 new positions over the next two years, a move that comes as the city deals with a dramatic increase in shootings and homicides and battles financial woes that threaten basic services.
Superintendent Eddie Johnson will announce what will be the force’s largest hiring effort in years at a news conference later Wednesday, CPD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said.
The breakdown is 516 new officers, 92 field-training officers, 200 detectives, 112 sergeants and 50 lieutenants, Guglielmi said. An official told The Associated Press on Tuesday the department, which has more than 12,000 officers already, planned to hire another 500-plus.
Yet to be explained is how the financially strapped city will pay for a massive hiring effort that’s likely to carry a multimillion-dollar price tag. Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office did not immediately return an email requesting comment about the cost of pensions and benefits that will come with so many new hires.
“That is a question that remains unanswered,” Alderman Danny Solis said. But he added that Emanuel assured him recently that he was confident the hiring could be done without raising taxes; the council approved new water and sewer tax increases earlier this month.
Solis, fellow Alderman Howard Brookins Jr. and others argue that whatever the hiring costs, it could be less than the $100 million paid in police overtime per year. That’s a strategy Emanuel pushed for as a way to combat crime without resorting to what he said was the more expensive option of hiring officers.
Brookins, who has expressed concern about the effects increased overtime was having on officers, thinks the new hires may reduce stress among officers, which could reduce the number of citizen complaints and police misconduct lawsuits that have the city has settled for tens of millions of dollars.
Chicago has seen a dramatic rise in the number of shootings and homicides this year. In August alone, there were 90 homicides, marking the first time in two decades there’ve been that many in a single month. Overall, the city has recorded more than 500 homicides this year — higher than all of 2015 — and is on pace to climb past the 600-homicide mark for the first time since 2003. There have also been more than 2,500 shooting incidents so far this year, about 700 more than in the same time period last year.
Plus, the department that’s long struggled with a reputation for police misconduct and brutality has been beset by criticism and an erosion of trust in the wake of several fatal police shootings.
Last year, the city was forced to release a video of a white officer fatally shooting black 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in 2014, sparking major protests as well as federal and local investigations. And there have been signs that the department has had a difficult time keeping up with the crime — starting with the fact that the percentage of homicides that detectives have been able to solve has dropped significantly.
The fallout over the video prompted Emanuel to fire his first police superintendent, Garry McCarthy at the end of last year. Interim Superintendent John Escalante and his permanent replacement, Johnson, have struggled to bring the violence under control. During that time, the call for more officers in several city neighborhoods and from aldermen has only gotten louder.
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