Chicago police chief Garry McCarthy on Thursday said his department is on track to spend $93 million in overtime this year -- nearly triple the amount originally budgeted -- but pushed back against an assertion that means there aren't enough officers.
"We are meeting with attrition and staying with it," he told members of the City Council's Budget Committee.
The city's top cop said 502 new police officers have been hired so far this year and he said he expected 450 officer retirements.
To fight a homicide rate that put Chicago in the national spotlight, as many as 400 officers each night have been working overtime and saturating high crime areas.
"With the distribution of the rookie officers ... we made a decision to kick off Operation Impact with overtime," McCarthy said in answering a question from Ald. Ricardo Muñoz (22) as to why overtime is "so out of control."
"It's cheaper to pay a police officer overtime than it is to hire a fully loaded -- with benefits, health benefits and pay -- officer," said McCarthy.
Staffing levels have long been a bone of contention between department management and the officers' union. And on Thursday, there was an apparent discrepancy as to how many officers actually work for the department. McCarthy put the number at 12,538. Mike Shields, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police, the officers' union, said the department had 12,125 officers.
Still, McCarthy said staffing levels in the department were adequate and told members of the committee that his department's numbers show that every category of crime -- including homicides -- is down so far in 2013.
"The results that we’re getting -- which I still say and I will say forever -- is progress, not success," he said. "We’re moving in the right direction. We’re definitely moving the needle."