A proposed amendment to the 2014 City Budget aimed at hiring 500 new police officers never made it out of a key City Council committee Monday, ending its chances of being included in the city’s budget.
The amendment, sponsored by Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd) and backed by members of the council’s Progressive Reform Caucus, was being considered by the Finance Committee, chaired by Ald. Ed Burke (14th). However, it was tabled under a motion by Ald. James Balcer (11th), head of the Public Safety Committee, effectively killing its chances.
Munoz’s proposal would have redirected $25 million already in the proposed budget to hire 500 new police officers. The new officers would be above the hires already slated to be made to account for retirement and other attrition.
Of the $25 million, $10 million would have come from the City’s Finance General Fund and $15 million from expected police overtime costs.
Munoz and others have said the Chicago Police Department’s current practice of maintaining ongoing, structural overtime as part of it’s campaign to fight violence in the city is unsustainable. Earlier this month, police chief Gerry McCarthy said the city expects to spend $93 million on overtime this year, nearly triple the $32 million budget for police overtime for all of 2013.
“We are disappointed at the Budget Committee’s failure to pass this amendment,” Munoz said in a statement. “The current rate of overtime pay, which hovers at about 10 percent of the overall police budget, is fiscally unsustainable and irresponsible. It creates a structural problem that the City will now fail to address for another year.”
However, McCarthy and allies of Mayor Rahm Emanuel have argued that paying overtime costs is preferable to incurring additional costs as part of hiring new officers. As well, McCarthy has said the department is keeping up with attrition and has enough officers to do the job.
Others, particularly in the Progressive Reform Caucus, see it differently.
While hiring more police won’t solve our problem of rampant street violence in and of itself, it is clear that our current force does not have the resources or manpower to keep our streets safe right now,” said Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd). “The Progressive Caucus has advocated for a more sustainable, long term approach.”
In addition to the eight members of the Progressive Caucus, five other alderman also signed on as co-sponsors to the amendment, including Willie Cochran (20th), Howard Brookins (21st), Brendan Reilly (42nd), Michelle Smith (43rd) and Tom Tunney (44th).
Update: During Wednesday's City Council debate before a vote on the proposed 2014 budget, Budget Committee chairperson Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) said the proposed amendment was tabled not to kill it, but to allow alderman an opportunity to find additional funding. She indicated that the $25 million asked for by Munoz in the original amendment would fund aroudn 200--not 500--new officers, and she and others were seeking ways to honor the orignal request.