CHICAGO – Hiring more police officers has been an issue of debate for the past few years in Chicago. Despite opposing views on the matter, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson announced Wednesday the plan to hire almost a thousand police officers in the next two years.

Johnson believes the way to address the growing rates of murder and other crimes in the city is to have more officers working the streets and to ease the burden of many overloaded detectives and supervisors through promotions, according to ABC 7 Chicago report.

Dean Angelo, president of Fraternal Order of Police agrees with Johnson, particularly adding detectives. “You’ll see homicide detectives and shooting, aggravated battery detectives,” he said, “walking around the area with a coffee mug duct-taped to their hand, more or less, because they never leave and they never stop. And they need a lot of help.”

Johnson said he met with Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and discussed the need to add more officers to the force.

Emanuel banked on police overtime to fight increasing violence in the city for the past five years. According to the ABC report, the bill came to $100 million in 2015. Now they consider it more appropriate to use the budget to pay for new hires.

By this, it is partially known where the money to pay for the additional personnel will come from, although the city has yet to say exactly what the new-hires will cost.

According to the report, the mayor previously opposed hiring new police officers, but seeing the result of increasing violence, he apparently reversed his plan.

The city has seen a significant increase in violent crime statistics: Murders are up 46% from last year, criminal sexual assaults have risen 18%, and robberies have increased 27%, according to police department data.

Overall, the city has recorded more than 500 homicides this year — higher than all of 2015 — and is on pace to climb past the 600-homicide mark for the first time since 2003. There have also been more than 2,500 shooting incidents so far this year, about 700 more than in the same time period last year.

Johnson puts the blame on increased gang activity and weak gun laws.

“The truth is we can’t pull officers from the safer communities into the more violent ones. Gang members will figure that out and shift their operations. I’m confident that these added resources will make us better and give us the capacity we need to address our crime problems across the city,” Johnson said.

“Because we stretched them so thin I think we’ve seen some really disappointing repercussions in our communities,” said 45th Ward Alderman John Arena.

Black Lives Matter Chicago released a statement criticizing the announcement, saying in part, “The causes of crime and intra-communal violence exist because of the conditions of poverty that Rahm Emanuel has exacerbated for Chicago. More policing will not “fix” these conditions. What more policing will accomplish is more violence, more lock ups and more trauma for our already suffering communities.”

A press release of the Comprehensive Public Safety Strategy has been outlined by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and is available on the City of Chicago’s official site. The highlights of the press release include:

  • Strengthening law enforcement
  • Investments in prevention
  • Legislative measures to address gun violence
  • Ensuring economic opportunity for all Chicagoans
  • Rebuilding the two-way street of trust

The additional police personnel will include:

  • 516 more police officers
  • 92 new field training officers
  • 112 new sergeants
  • 50 lieutenants
  • Additional civilian professional staff

Superintendent Johnson will promote these sergeants and lieutenants from among his current officers, whose leadership and deep knowledge of the city will help guide subordinates on the beat.

The plan to hire was received by some citizens with skepticism. “We’re putting the onus on the police department. We need a war on poverty. We need to put some resources behind job creation,” said Rev. Ira Acree.

Aaron Lewi, 48, an ex-convict and recovering drug addict, agrees to the plan saying more police would help at the Westside of the neighborhood, but only if the police will deal with it in a mature fashion and not in a violent manner.

As one alderman questioned where the money to fund for the new hires will come from, other aldermen believe that Superintendent Johnson will train the right people and citizens will be willing to do more to ensure safety in the city.

“Until we’re ready to address some of the systemic and social issues, that’s always going to be the answer: find more police, more enforcement,” political consultant Maze Jackson said.

Bishop James Dukes of the Liberation Christian Center was thinking of another option. “I think the money should be spent more effectively. Not in new hires, but actually in training the ones that we have.”

“If you can raise $1 billion for a Star Wars museum, surely you can raise $1 billion to bring resources into our community,” said Pastor Greg Livingston, of the Coalition for a New Chicago.

Based on the press release, part of the plan of strengthening the law enforcement includes investing in training and technology to provide police with tools they need to fight crime and improve trust with the communities they serve. That is ensuring every officer has a body-worn camera and investing in gunshot detection technology and cameras.

The plan also includes strengthening the training academy. Superintendent Johnson has set a new standard for how officers will police communities, and the department is now on the cutting edge of developing a training curriculum to reflect that strategy; including new scenario-based, in-service training for experienced officers and resources to enhance recruit training.

The Comprehensive Public Safety Strategy, in general, is a plan for improving safety, security in every Chicago neighborhood, grow the police department by 970 officers over two years, provide mentors to every 8th – 10th grade CPS boy in the 20 most violent community areas.

Photo by Antoinette Alcazar