Chicago adding nearly 1K new police jobs to ‘make us better’

CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago’s police department will add nearly 1,000 new positions over the next two years, its superintendent announced Wednesday, saying it’ll help the city deal with a dramatic increase in shootings and homicides. But it isn’t clear where the money will come from in a city that’s grappling with financial woes that threaten basic services.

Superintendent Eddie Johnson said at a news conference that he asked for additional officers and Mayor Rahm Emanuel “delivered.” The department presented a plan, which will start in January 2017, to add 516 new officers, 92 field-training officers, 200 detectives, 112 sergeants and 50 lieutenants. The changes will increase the number of sworn officers from about 12,500 to about 13,500; Johnson said vacancies will be filled on top of the new hires.

“I’m confident that these added resources will make us better,” Johnson said. He also acknowledged CPD’s issues and said accountability is key. “We’ll train and mentor officers who make honest mistakes, but I will not tolerate intentional misconduct,” he said.

He did not explain how the financially strapped city will pay for the force’s largest hiring effort in years, which is likely to carry a multimillion-dollar price tag.

Emanuel would not say how the city will pay for the new jobs, which will require pensions and benefits, telling reporters Wednesday at an unrelated event that Chicago “will have the resources” to pay for it.

“That is a question that remains unanswered,” Alderman Danny Solis said before the news conference, adding that Emanuel recently assured him the hiring can be done without raising taxes; the council approved new water and sewer tax increases earlier this month.

The plan to hire hundreds more officers marks a departure for Emanuel, who has relied on overtime — more than $100 million annually in recent years — to combat crime, arguing that it was an effective and less expensive way to combat crime than hiring more officers.

Whatever the cost of hiring 970 more officers, Solis, fellow Alderman Howard Brookins Jr., and others said, it certainly means the more than $100 million spent annually on overtime would fall.

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 in turn cut down on the number of citizen complaints and police misconduct lawsuits that the city has settled for tens of millions of dollars.

The Chicago police union didn’t immediately respond to The Associated Press’ request for comment.

Johnson said the new hires will help rebuild trust between the community and his department, which has long struggled with a reputation for police misconduct and brutality, especially after several recent police shootings.

“If we want to stop the violence we need to find and arrest the people that are responsible,” he said. “If we want to earn the trust and respect of the people we serve, we need to take their pain seriously and investigate every crime as if it was a crime that happened to one of our own children.”

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.

Keeping up with this year’s spike in crime, which Emanuel said Wednesday is a new phenomenon, has been a problem for CPD. The percentage of homicides that detectives have been able to solve has dropped significantly.

“So we’re meeting it with a new response, which is more police, more technology, greater investment in mentoring, our summer jobs and our afterschool,” he said.

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. The fallout prompted Emanuel to fire his first police superintendent, Garry McCarthy at the end of last year.

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