More on the Police Manpower Debate

The police manpower discussion in Chicago seems to be driven by voodoo or witchcraft because it certainly is not being driven by evidence or facts (even though we’re sure they exist in reports somewhere within the Chicago Police Department (CPD)!).

The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) and their accomplices are driving the political discourse and media coverage about the CPD being short officers. In the end, it is the community members who are getting the shaft by constantly hearing from their local police and elected leaders about how we don’t have enough officers, and thus their fear of crime increases.  It’s important to note that if you ask the FOP or an alderman what exactly the numbers are short of, they tell you that they’re short of the 13,500 officers that allotted for in the city budget. Yet ask them to prove why this is the number of officers we need and suddenly you can hear the crickets chirping.

One major problem is that our local aldermen believe that the cop on the beat knows what police manpower should be.  The problem with this is that a beat officer has only anecdotal evidence, nothing data driven or fact checked.  But it’s not as if such evidence doesn’t exist; the CPD may have about a dozen people throughout the entire 12,000 person organization that truly has a clue what analysis needs to be done to determine how many cops Chicago needs or how they should be allocated throughout the entire city.  This has not stopped alderman from using what they are told by the cops in their local district to advocate for more officers.  It’s understandable because it is hard for alderman to take the honest – yet politically challenging – position that we might not need more officers.  Why is the city council not pushing the CPD to release whatever analysis they have completed (I have heard there are many over the years)? The answer is beyond me.

In a forthcoming post we will be taking a closer look are the financial resources it would take to hire and keep employed for a decade the 1,500 officers the FOP is calling for.  Let’s just say that the first year of employment for 1,500 officers the city would be looking at approximately $85-$90 million dollars.  This is for a city that supposedly does not have $3 million to keep open the mental health clinics.

Loyola Panel Provides Few Facts – Continues Propaganda

On Thursday Oct 18th, I had the opportunity to participate in a panel presentation at Loyola University Chicago Law School for the Illinois Academy of Criminology on police manpower. While the presentation as a whole only provided a few additional facts to aid the public discourse on the topic, here are a couple of the more interesting points brought up by my fellow panelists:

Robert LombardoProfessor Lombardo did an interesting analysis of beats that demonstrated the CPD is down about 1500 officers.  As part of his presentation, he talked about a significant reduction of beats in the 1990s.  Interesting, but my sources are unable to come up with the last time beats were redrawn citywide.   I also tried to findout from the CPD through official channels about when the beats that last redrawn citywide and they were unable to provide an answer.  Beat realignment is the term used when redrawing all the beats in the city based on some criteria like calls for service, crime levels, or population shifts.  Beat realignment has not been done in the city for decades.  This is something that white, north-side alderman have been fighting against for many years because they know realignment will mean a reduction of officers in their districts as officers relocate to higher crime districts on the south and west sides.  The city may have indeed reduced beats at some point in the 1990s, but it was not a redrawing of beats across the city.  Any analysis based on the beats that were drawn for the city maybe 3 or 4 censuses ago does not seem like it would be valid. It’s also worth considering that maybe we should start with a discussion about whether or not we want to stick with the beat system at all.  Both of these questions were absent in Professor Lombardo’s presentation.

Art Bilek represented the Crime Commission.  I know that the Crime Commission recently issued a press release about police manpower but I don’t think they are were worthy of being on the panel.  They are advocates for more officers, but unfortunately they are traditionally nothing but an echo chamber for business owners and are the most ardent supporters of law enforcement.  The main problem with their efforts here is that they are based on no evidence other than exactly that which aldermen are basing their decisions on: innuendo.  Art did talk about the need to talk to our neighbors, fellow community members, and city council members to learn how many officers they think we need.  Personally, I would rather base our decisions on science and not on citizens’ fear of crime and aldermanic pandering.

I have saved the best for last…….

“It is not the job of the Fraternal Order of Police to know how many officers are needed in Chicago.  It is the job of the city council and the Chicago Police Department.  It is our job to protect our officers.”

–       James McCarthy, FOP

FOP jpgAll I can say to this is that one would think that for the FOP to adequately protect their officers, they would need to know how many officers are needed and thus be able to advocate for that amount.  I guess the FOP is happy to let the CPD and the city council come to a political decision about the number of officers needed rather than an empirical one.

There is a desperate need in Chicago for a politician with courage to step forward and start demanding one of the following:

That the CPD produce the detailed analysis that they are using to determine how many officers the department needs and how they should be deployed.


That the CPD have the detailed analysis completed and made public so that we can have a constructive public discourse on the issue.

Community members deserve nothing less.

Tracy has nearly two decades of experience researching and working within criminal justice systems. When Tracy began pursuing a career dedicate to system reform, he found that no single organization existed to promote evidence-based discussions among law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve. Recognizing that citizens in Chicago deserved the right to demand transparency in their criminal justice system, Siska established the Chicago Justice Project. He received his Master of Arts degree in Criminal Justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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