Chicago’s embattled mayor, Rahm Emanuel, is planning on hiring “hundreds” of new police officers after the city suffered from one of the deadliest months in the past 20 years, The Chicago Sun Times reports.
The problem couldn’t be more severe. The long weekend pushed the city’s homicide rate for the year up over 500, outpacing last year’s total of 424, with four months left in the year.
This past weekend alone, 65 people were shot — 13 fatally — including a woman who was nine months pregnant, according to The Chicago Tribune.
“It’s not a police issue, it’s a society issue,” Eddie Johnson, Chicago’s police superintendent told The Tribune on Tuesday. “Impoverished neighbourhoods, people without hope do these kinds of things.”
The Chicago Police Department is facing a personnel shortage as retirement outpaces hiring, causing the department’s staff to dwindle, according to The Sun-Times.
In 2015, the police department spent $116.1 million on overtime, in an attempt to get more officers out on the streets. Paying officers overtime is a cheap strategy for getting more police to work on busy weekends, like the Fourth of July, without actually hiring more people.
Despite the spending, some Chicago officials say that encouraging officers to work more overtime hours hasn’t reduced crime.
“One of the things that overtime tried to accomplish was [to tamp down] the spikes in violence,” George Cardenas, the alderman for Chicago’s 12th district and the chairman of the Hispanic Caucus, told The Sun-Times. “That strategy has not worked. Which means we need more police and we need more police better trained to deal with our current environment. That’s just the bottom line.”
Working too much overtime can lead to fatigure and burnout for officers, so it’s not an effective long-term strategy for getting more police out on the streets, Dean Angelo, the president of the Fraternal Order of police in Chicago told The Sun-Times.
Though Chicago may sorely need more police, especially in the city’s South Side, it hasn’t quite figured out how it’s going to pay for the increase.
The Chicago Justice Project, a nonprofit research organisation, estimates that putting another 1,000 cops on Chicago streets — as Emanuel originally promised during his campaign in 2011 — will cost taxpayers over $1 billion. That’s a challenge, as the city of Chicago is running a $137.6 million budget deficit.
Regardless, some officials believe that Chicago must find a way to pay for more officers.
“We have to decide if having our streets fully protected, if having our streets be places where children can come out without getting a bullet in their stomach just by sitting on the porch is worth paying for,” Ray Lopez, the alderman for Chicago’s 15th district told The Sun-Times.
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