CHICAGO (CBS) — A major reshuffling inside the Chicago Police Department is now complete, and the city says the changes will help keep residents safer.
Leaders are promising better response times and two new “areas” in the city. Areas are essentially regionalized police headquarters around the city. Since 2013 the city had just three police areas. One of them stretched from the city’s western border all the way to the lake. Mayor Lori Lightfoot said it stretched staff and resources too thin.
“My goal and everyone here, everyone here, is to make sure that Chicago is the safest big city in America,” she said.
That goal is re-shaping the city. Chicago went from five districts down to three under Mayor Rahm Emanuel. It was broken up into: Area North, Area Central and Area South, with between six and 10 police districts in each area.
The return to five operational areas, numbered one through five puts detectives, narcotics and gang intervention teams in more tightly focused geographic areas answering to deputy chiefs at the helm of these five area headquarters with no more than six districts per area.
“The two additional areas will allow these teams to be even more responsive, particularly on the West Side,” said CPD Chief of Operations Fred Waller. “At a moment’s notice these teams can now mobilize to crack down on crime in any particular area.”
The two new headquarters are located at Harrison and Kedzie on the West Side and at Grand and Central on the Northwest Side. Both have been overhauled with improved technology operations, helping detectives scan video and act on digital evidence faster. This is breaking down silos that police brass say often impede speedy resolution.
“The new area structure breaks down these silos and creates greater accountability as each area now reports directly to a deputy chief,” said CPD Supt. David Brown.
Those overseeing the CPD’s court ordered reforms, known as the consent decree, have some concerns.
“What will that injection of resources mean for issues of surveillance and is of over-policing and issues of where use of force is concentrated?” said Sheil Bedi with the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law.
Opening these two massively remodeled headquarters and staffing them and launching them costs the city $3.7 million and was approved by city council last year.