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Updated 10/24/12 – 4:58 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – As City Council budget hearings continued Wednesday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel was trying to deflect aldermanic calls to hire more police officers than already planned for next year.
CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reports the fight against crime on the streets of Chicago might become a fight inside City Hall.
In 2011, there were 432 murders in Chicago all of last year, and there have been 426 so far this year.
In light of the rise in murders in the city, some aldermen challenged the mayor to double the number of new cops he plans to put on the streets next year.
As Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy and other top police brass appeared at City Hall to discuss the police budget plan for next year, some aldermen argued it’s not enough to plan on hiring only about 500 new officers next year, just enough to keep pace with retirements.
Aldermen want another 500 new hires in 2013.
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During the Police Department’s budget hearing on Wednesday, Ald. James Balcer (11th) asked McCarthy, “Can you please tell me what is the difference about Chicago, and why we are seeing this level of violence?”
“That’s a big picture question,” McCarthy said.
One factor he cited was the number of guns in Chicago – saying police seize more guns here than any other city in the nation. He said, in the first six months of 2012, Chicago police seized nine guns per capita for every gun seized in New York City.
Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd) asked McCarthy, “Can you help me understand what you believe to be full-strength?”
“Full-strength” is a term McCarthy and the mayor have been using recently, when discussing the number of police officers they want on the street.
Emanuel and McCarthy said that means having 12,500 officers on the streets by the end of 2013.
The mayor wasn’t ignoring the aldermen who want more cops than he’s already planning to hire, but said said at an unrelated event on Wednesday that he’ll keep the force at full strength while putting more cops on the street, by using about 600 officers he’s already shifted off desk duty since taking office last spring.
“The police officers weren’t doing policing, they were doing paperwork. They were doing very good paperwork, but they weren’t doing policing. We’ve put them on the street,” Emanuel said. “And since that time burglaries are down 15 percent, auto thefts are down 14 percent, sexual assaults are down 8 percent.”
The mayor said maximizing the department’s effectiveness means not only hiring new recruits, but adding more sergeants to the department’s ranks.
“You need also the leadership ranks to lead the recruits,” he said. “We’ll be issuing the first new sergeant’s test in six years.”
But Munoz and more than a dozen other aldermen said they want at least 13,000 officers on the streets by the end of next year.
“If we’re at full-strength today, it’s not sufficient. We need more officers in our neighborhoods. We need to figure out how to budget for more police officers to be on the beat, in the neighborhoods to prevent this crime,” he said. “We have to get creative.”
The Chicago Fraternal Order of Police has argued for the past couple years that the department should return to its previously budgeted strength of 13,500 officers, but McCarthy argued that authorizing that many officers in previous years was no more than a “shell game,” so that the city could leave hundreds of those positions unfilled, and call it a cost savings.
Aldermen pushing for more cops might soon find themselves butting heads with the mayor and McCarthy over this issue.
“There’s no studies that show that more cops means less murders. It’s what those officers are doing,” McCarthy told the aldermen.
Emanuel said the Police Department already has shifted enough officers from behind desks and other special duties to the streets.
“Overall crime in the city of Chicago is down 9 percent, the biggest drop in over a decade. It got that way because … the men and women in the Police Department weren’t doing paperwork, they were actually out patrolling the streets of the city of Chicago,” Emanuel said. “So how you use police officers, what leadership you have, and where you deploy them – and with the right strategy – is essential.”
The mayor said he also plans to change the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy so there are actually more officers in the city’s communities.