It's been a rough year for new Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis. First was the Taste debacle, which led to his grilling by the City Council. Then came news last week that as crime has risen, arrests are down. But that's not the only number down, according to a report in today's Trib. It seems that Weis has been unable to deliver on a promise to hire more officers. In fact, due to "retirements, firings and resignations," the total number of officers on the force is down by 250. According to Mark Donahue, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, the department has lost approximately 375 officers while only hiring 125 new ones since the beginning of the year. And that total number could increase to a -400 difference by the end of the year. The force had somewhere in the neighborhood of 13,4000 sworn officers as of December 2007.
Police department spokeswoman Monique Bond said:
The top priority of the Chicago Police Department is to put more officers on the street. But we can look across city departments and see the impact of the economy on all of them. Yes, public-safety agencies are critical components in any city government, but we do have some constraints we have to deal with.
Earlier this spring, Weis claimed he planned to hire 75 new officers and the city also had their eyes at hiring 350 new officers. Yet, since then, Mayor Daley announced that the city happens to have $400+ million budget hole. Daley insisted that budget cuts would not include laying off current officers, yet it seems the budget hole will prevent hiring more. Donhaue said that orders from on high are that there will be no more hires through at least the end of 2008. "It's obvious the city will be saving a great deal of money in the personnel category by not hiring new police officers. But they are also doing it at a time when violent crime is up and concerns about public safety are rising due to the economy."
At a ceremony this afternoon celebrating the opening of the new O'Hare runway, Mayor Daley side-stepped questions about the police force, saying:
We're going to stay on this subject matter because I think it's important to stay on the subject matter...No, no, it's good to stay on it. Yesterday I took questions [on other topics], tomorrow I'll take questions, so you'll see me all week. Don't worry.
Weis was also in attendance but did not talk to the media.