A Public Safety Disaster!

CHICAGO – John Garrido issued the following statement regarding Superintendent Weis’ plan to “reallocate” Chicago Police Officers:

“In five short weeks, I will celebrate my 20th anniversary as a Chicago Police Officer. During this time, I’ve seen many positive changes in police work that have enabled the department as a whole to reduce criminal activity. Unfortunately, it is my understanding from recent news reports that Superintendent Weis intends to “reallocate” officers from “slower” districts to “busier” districts. While this would appear on-its-face to be a reasonable and good idea, the reality is that it is a public safety disaster waiting to happen.

The 45th Ward encompasses a large portion of the 16th District, and a portion of the 17th District. Both of which would be considered as slower districts, thus making them subject to a reduction in police manpower under the proposed plan. Because a majority of the 45TH Ward is within the 16th District, that will be the focus of my analysis.

Geographically, the 16th District is the largest of all 25 police districts, covering over 30 square miles. Although largest in size, the 16th District has one of the lowest crime rates in the entire city. This can be attributed to both the law-abiding citizens who reside here, and to the hard working police officers who tirelessly work to keep their beats safe.

Superintendent Weis’ proposed reallocation plan appears to rely in large part on “calls for service” as a means of determining which districts will receive the majority of available police manpower. In theory, moving manpower would alleviate the workload of those officers assigned to the busiest of districts. Unfortunately, this theory is flawed. The problem is not that there are a lot of calls for service, but that the majority of these calls receive a police response.

Many decades ago, the Chicago Police Department established a policy where officers would respond to EVERY call for service. Unfortunately, residents of some communities call the police for everything, regardless of whether or not it is a police related problem. It is this policy that has backfired and caused the huge workload in some districts. According to the infamous $1M Booz Allen report, which was commissioned by Mayor Daley in the 1990’s, only 3% to 7% of calls that police respond to are actual emergencies. Moreover, the Chicago Police Department currently dispatches officers to 68% of the calls for service that come in, while other major cities only dispatch 30% of their calls. It is this policy of excessive dispatching that has forced officers to respond to calls that are non-police related at the expense of their being able to engage in proactive policing. I would propose a change to the dispatch policy that would drastically reduce the department’s dispatch percentage. This would precipitously reduce the workload of officers in the “busier” districts and free them up to engage in proactive, aggressive preventive patrol of their assigned beats. As a result, crime would most certainly drop in these areas.

While our city government is suffering from reduced revenues during this nationwide economic crisis, public safety is not the place to do more with less! The citizens of the 45th Ward have watched as their police resources have dwindled year-after-year. District gang officers have been moved to “busier” districts, while countless officers have retired without being replaced by new recruits. These “layoffs through attrition” have reduced both the available police manpower and response times in the 16th District, thereby reducing the safety of officers and citizens alike. We need to hire at least one thousand officers, and we need them now! As alderman, I vow to work to find funding to hire more police officers. One thing I’ve learned in my 20 years as a police officer is that nothing does more to impact crime than putting young, aggressive officers on the streets. With this in mind, I advocate that we tap into the $1.2 billion dollars currently sitting idle in the TIF funds. Twenty percent of that money would go to the city’s general revenue fund, which could be used to fully staff the Chicago Police Department.

Unfortunately, even if the money were suddenly made available, the current hiring process would not allow new officers to hit the streets anytime soon. At the earliest, it would be late fall of 2011 before the 200 officers scheduled to be hired next year complete their training and leave the academy. In order to expedite the hiring process and bring experienced officers into the Chicago Police Department, I propose that we begin hiring experienced officers from other municipal police departments. Under this “lateral transfer” plan, officers with at least two (2) years of sworn law enforcement experience who pass a review process would immediately be hired as probationary police officers. They would then be placed into an accelerated academy class to familiarize them with Chicago specific ordinances and police procedures. Thus, by reducing the redundant training of a certified Illinois Peace Officer, we could have experienced officers on the street in 1/6 the time that it takes to train a new officer.
If our City Council really wants to do more with less, maybe they should strongly consider reducing the number of Aldermen employed by the City of Chicago.”

Comments are closed.