Chicago Police

Chairman of City Council's Black Caucus Questions Why Officers Are in Jobs Civilians Could Do

The chairman of the City Council’s Black Caucus wants the Chicago Police Department to create “clear criteria for why any positions that civilians can work are filled by sworn officers” and provide quarterly reports on the subject.

Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) said “hundreds of sworn officers” remain in “civilian positions,” even though the last four mayors have seemingly made it a priority to get cops out from behind desks and back on the street.

“We go through these exercises, but nothing really changes. … We move people back into the districts and then, some mysterious way, they find their way back at headquarters,” Ervin told the Sun-Times.

“If there’s a reason why a sworn officer needs to be in a specific position, they should be able to defend that. … We just need to get some clarity on the rationale behind why individuals that could very well be in neighborhoods helping [fight crime] are behind the desk doing some function that very well could be done by somebody else” who is not in uniform.

Five months after taking office, Mayor Lori Lightfoot merged administrative functions of the police and fire departments and the Office of Emergency Management into a new Office of Public Safety Administration.

It was to bring together 280 civilian employees in the finance, human resources, information technology and logistics divisions at a new office in the city’s public safety headquarters, 3510 S. Michigan Ave.

The consolidation was expected to generate “savings over time” by replacing sworn officers with civilians and reducing police overtime, which topped $200 million for the three public safety departments.

The new administration office was supposed to launch in May 2020 but was delayed because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It finally opened last fall under the leadership of Anastasia Walker, former chief administrative officer for the Chicago Fire Department.

The resolution, which Ervin introduced at Monday’s Council meeting, comes at a pivotal moment.

Homicides, shootings and carjackings continue to surge from last year’s troubling levels.

Meanwhile, the tidal wave of police retirements continues, with 703 retirements already this year and 987 sworn vacancies.

Already, the Chicago Police Department is 1,000 officers short of authorized strength — even after Lightfoot balanced her 2021 budget, in part, by eliminating 614 police vacancies.

Exacerbating the problem is waning interest in the police profession and the fact that CPD has slowly begun the process of placing on no-pay status officers who refuse to report their vaccine status on the city’s data portal.

The resolution would require CPD to “create clear criteria for why any positions that civilians can work are filled by sworn officers.”

It further states, “Be it further resolved that, if a sworn officer is in a Police Department or Public Safety Administration position that a civilian can work, there are quarter check-ins to ensure there is still a valid reason they are doing that work.”

CPD and the Office of Public Safety Administration would also be required to provide “quarterly reports” to the Council’s Committee on Public Safety “so there is transparency around progress being made on this issue.”

Ervin said rising crime and the 1,000 police vacancies “definitely helps the argument” for riding herd over a civilianization process that has been so painfully slow, it’s been the subject of several reports by the inspector general’s office.

But, he added: “This should have been done years ago.”

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