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Mayor Bristles When Reporters Challenge Police Manpower Figures

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel (center) and Police Supt. Garry McCarthy (left) announce plans to redeploy 138 cops from police lockups to district beats. (Credit: CBS)

Mayor Rahm Emanuel (center) and Police Supt. Garry McCarthy (left) announce plans to redeploy 138 cops from police lockups to district beats. (Credit: CBS)

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Updated 10/06/11 – 6:41 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) – Mayor Rahm Emanuel got a bit defensive Thursday about the number of police officers he’s been able to put on the streets since he took office.

As WBBM Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports, the figures were on the rise, but the exact numbers are in dispute.

During his run for mayor, Emanuel promised to put 1,000 additional cops on the streets and, on Thursday, he and Police Supt. Garry McCarthy announced that they will be fulfilling that promise by the end of the year.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports

The city plans to redeploy 138 officers from lockup duty to district beats. Emanuel said that brings the number of new cops on the streets since he took office stands at 1,019.

But many of those officers were already working the streets in special units that worked all over the city, rather than staying within specific districts. About 600 of the officers who have been redeployed came from desk duties, but the rest came from specialized units that were working the streets.

Emanuel bristled when reporters challenged his numbers at a press conference at the Chicago Lawn District, which has 62 more officers from the reassignments this year.

“I got it. I’m only 132 days into a four-year term,” Emanuel said. “But 1,019 officers have been applied from where they were before to the street and the most important number of this is not the 1,019 – that here in the 8th District, Chicago Lawn, there has been a 25 percent drop from last year’s crime. That’s the number that I focus on.”

Given that many of the officers Emanuel has moved to beat patrols were already working on the streets, the Fraternal Order of Police said it’s misleading for Emanuel to say there are 1,000 more officers on the street than when he took office.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports

FOP spokesman Pat Camden said because many of those officers were on the streets already, Emanuel’s moves account largely to reallocating existing resources.

“And we understand that. That’s part of what he promised in his campaign speech,” Camden said.

Camden said that what is needed is for the department to hire new officers.

“We have 320 officers who have retired this year to date. We have another 200 by the end of the year,” Camden said.

McCarthy said that the Police Department will indeed hire new officers in 2012 under the budget Emanuel will unveil next week, but he didn’t provide specifics on how many officers would be hired, when they would be hired, or how the city would pay for them.

The mayor acknowledged that many of the officers transferred to district beats since he took office were already working on the streets, but said that hundreds of them were working administrative positions.

He also said the bigger point was that crime has gone down during his term.

“We can sit here in the comfort of this police district, having this conversation. The only conversation I’m interested in is the one between a parent and their children about their safety and in their neighborhood,” Emanuel said. “That’s the conversation that’s most important and that’s the goal we have.”

McCarthy also became testy with repeated questions about whether 1,000 officers have truly been added to the streets since May.

“First of all, we’re not done, so I don’t know why everybody is caught up on the number. This is going to be an ongoing process of creating efficiencies within the department.”

McCarthy said he favors placing officers on district beats, rather than deploying them with specialized citywide units, because it makes district commanders more accountable for their what happens on their beats and allows cops to become more familiar with their communities by always working in the same area.

“I do not believe that citywide task forces are the right way to fight crime. I believe the right way to do it is to put the resources in the hands of the commanders and have them be accountable,” he said. “We want the same cops in the same beat every single day because the accountability runs from me to the beat cop. Everybody in that chain is accountable.”

In order to move the 138 officers from lockup duty to the streets, the city will be hiring 104 civilian detention aides to replace the officers being redeployed to the beats and the mayor expects to have them on the job by December, when the officers can be moved from lockup to the beats.

The city will need fewer civilian detention aides than the current number of cops working at lockups because several existing lockups will be consolidated.

Moments after the mayor’s press conference, CBS 2 overheard a radio call about a burglary in progress. CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine and a CBS 2 photographer watched the investigation unfold, saw police question witnesses and, within minutes, several suspects were taken into custody.

Police Sgt. Tom Glynn said he was nearby when the call came out.

“I just came right down the alley and they were at the back door,” Glynn said.

At least a dozen uniformed, plain-clothes and tactical officers responded to the call, surprising at least some of the neighbors.

“They’ve never come out like this before,” one man said. “Maybe they’re changing the system. Maybe they have more police on the streets, probably.”

Chicago Lawn District Police Cmdr. John Kupczyk said that, with the resources he had a year ago, the district could barely keep up with the flow of calls.

“Now with the resources we have … it’s allowing us to do so many more proactive things, not only enforcement-wise but community-wise – and it’s showing. We’re getting some results out of it,” he said.

The Chicago Lawn District has seen a 27% decrease in the number of shootings from the same period a year ago – perhaps proving the point that more manpower, smarter deployment and a new philosophy are more important than whether the new officers came from inside or outside and whether the mayor did or did not fulfill a campaign promise.

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