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 department currently has about 12,500 officers; 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’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 before the news conference. 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.
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.
On Wednesday, Solis, fellow Alderman Howard Brookins Jr., and others argue that whatever the cost of hiring so many officers, it would certainly mean the bill for police overtime — more than $100 annually in recent years — 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 reduce the number of citizen complaints and police misconduct lawsuits that have 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.
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.
Associated Press writer Caryn Rousseau contributed to this report.