Mayor Richard Daley says he doesn't want to raise your taxes. But he does want to add police. And 200 officers may have to do for now.
"Do the taxpayers have enough money to pay more taxes?" Daley asked reporters at a packed City Hall press conference on Tuesday. "This is a very tough economy. You have to do more with less!"
Daley insists recent that moves he has ordered, coupled with future classes of recruits, will swell the ranks on the streets by more than 800 officers. He points to 212 officers transferred from desk duty to the street in recent weeks. Another 111 will be moved from full-time CAPS assignments; 314 more, he says, have been hired in the last year and a half.
Add to those numbers, as many as 200 new recruits from two upcoming classes, and Daley said the city could see an increase of 830 officers by the end of next year.
"You know, we're trying to budget for attrition," said police Supt. Jody Weis. "Make sure we have the same number of folks we have now."
Not everyone is convinced.
Fraternal Order of Police President Mark Donahue says merely shifting officers from one job to another won't even keep pace with retirement.
"These numbers are not going to stack up to even maintain the level of police protection that the people have today," said Donahue. "We're looking to get the numbers back to where they were in March of 2008, and this is not going to do it."
Donahue maintains that low staffing leads to danger for the men and women he represents, as evidenced by the deaths of three officers earlier this year.
"They don't have the backup," he said. "They don't have the resources to protect themselves in addressing the crime situations."
Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), the chairman of the City Council Police and Fire Committee, also expressed the belief that the mayor's numbers are anywhere near a permanent fix for the staffing the city needs.
"We may have a net gain of officers on the street," he said. "But I don't think this is going to keep up."
Beale noted that on any given day, literally thousands of officers are unavailable.
"You've got about 1,200 who are either sick, call in, personal days, and things like that. And then you have about 800 who are on disability," he explained.
Still, Beale conceded that Daley's math may be the best that can be expected in a very lean budget year. And Weis sought to assure residents that the department is adequately staffed.
"I guarantee you with the leadership we have in this city, we will have enough police officers to keep this city safe," he said.