Mayor Rahm Emanuel‘s top budget aides on Monday tried to assure aldermen that the city will both fill vacancies at the Chicago Police Department and add 545 new cops to the force in the coming year, something that will require substantially stepped-up recruiting, training and spending.
The mayor has pledged to add nearly 1,000 officers to the ranks over the next two years, with the aim of halting and reversing this year’s spike in shootings and murders. At least 3,475 people have been shot in Chicago this year, an increase of more than 1,000 at this point last year, and there have been 595 homicides, an increase of 186, according to Chicago Tribune data.
“Over the course of the next two years, not only will the Police Department hire an additional 970 sworn officers, they will fill current vacancies and any new vacancies resulting from attrition,” Budget Director Alexandra Holt told aldermen during the first day of hearings on Emanuel’s proposed $8.2 billion spending plan for 2017. “This will require much hard work, and we are committed to ensuring the Police Department has the resources they need to achieve this goal.”
By the start of next year, the city expects to put 363 new recruits on the street, which would fill 70 percent of the current vacancies, Holt said. Two more classes of recruits will be enrolled before Jan. 1, and in the coming year up to 1,100 new officers will be trained, she added.
Achieving what Holt called “an ambitious hiring goal” would require a near doubling of the current pace of training new recruits. About 600 recruits will have entered the academy this year. As part of the effort, the city will offer a new police exam in April to qualify to get on the list of potential new hires, with the city focused in part on expanding diversity within the ranks, Holt said.
Hiring plans for next year include adding 250 new beat officers, 92 field training officers, 100 detectives, 37 sergeants and 50 lieutenants. The city also plans to hire about 44 civilians with the aim of having sergeants now doing administrative work added to the ranks of patrol supervisors.
The city plans to spend $40 million next year on additional salaries and benefits for the new officers, plus $8 million for the hiring process, which includes background screening and drug testing. Another $2 million will be spent on new equipment and supplies and $3.2 million on recruiting and training. That’s on top of the $25 million borrowed to buy more police cars.
Beyond that, $5 million will be spent to double the size of the officer body camera program to 14 police districts and $1.2 million for technology that locates spots where guns were fired, Holt said.
The $59 million in additional Police Department spending, plus $9 million on new youth mentoring, jobs and after-school programs, won’t come from any single source of revenue, Holt said.
Next year, the Emanuel administration expects to bring in tens of millions of additional dollars from various existing taxes, about $40 million from declaring a surplus in special taxing funds and about $25 million in new revenue. The new money would come from a 7-cent fee on each traditional plastic or paper bag provided by retail outlets, charging for parking in some pickup zones and increasing parking meter fees around Wrigley Field during events.
Holt was one of three top budget and financial officials to testify Monday. Chief Financial Officer Carole Brown tried to make the case that Emanuel is turning around the downward city financial trajectory he inherited while conceding it “will not happen overnight.”
Comptroller Erin Keane outlined several ways the city plans to step up collection of debt owed on fines, fees and taxes, including an already instituted debt payment plan that is being offered before fines are piled on. The city also plans to step up weekend enforcement of parking restrictions to raise $3 million.