CHICAGO, April 1, 2016 – Mayor Rahm Emanuel will announce a bold and dramatic new police reform agenda at a press conference later today, in an effort to address the recent surge in violence in Chicago as well as the ongoing police accountability scandal, The Hall has learned through multiple sources.
The details of the policy agenda were shared with The Hall by a senior Emanuel administration official who requested to remain anonymous due to not being authorized to speak publicly on the matter. According to the source, the new policies include holding police officers accountable for the crime rates in their beats and districts, and also making it easier to fire police officers for underperformance or discipline problems.
The City reportedly will implement a major new tracking system, allowing for a data-driven approach that breaks down crime statistics by district, beat and individual officers.
“This new system will allow officers to be evaluated on the true measure of their job performance, which is the crime rate in the community they are serving. Numerous studies have shown that the number one factor influencing crime in a community is the police officer, and their ability to deliver a quality policing experience,“ said the anonymous source.
“The citizens of Chicago need and deserve to be served by quality police officers.”
The administration source also pointed to the many steps required to fire a police officer, making it virtually impossible to get rid of an officer who isn’t measuring up. Emanuel’s new plan will streamline the process, allowing quicker action.
“We have a contingent of problem officers who have been removed from street duty, collecting paychecks without doing any police work. This can go on for months until their case is resolved. The union contract allows us to use them as janitors, but that’s all they can do.”
A representative for the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), who requested not to be identified because the union has not had a chance to review the proposal, raised concerns about equal treatment of officers under the new evaluation system. “There are many variables that are outside the control of police officers, and it would be unfair to base the evaluations of these hard working public servants on those criteria. How can you compare the results of an officer working in Lincoln Park with one working in Englewood?”
The administration source dismissed the FOP concerns, saying “a good cop will have good results no matter where they are working. The FOP is just trying to cover for lazy cops.”
The improved database will also support a new ranking system for the districts. Each district will receive a grade on a scale of 1 to 73, with the top ranked districts receiving a score of 1, and lower achieving district getting lower marks, accordingly. Similar to the officer evaluations, the district grades “will allow residents to know whether their neighborhood police district is any good,” said the administration source. “For the first time, they will have a choice of which neighborhood to live in based on the quality ranking of the police district.”
The policing reforms will be paired with cost saving measures that will require police officers to work longer shifts without additional pay, and will close underutilized police stations. To smooth the transition to the new system, Mayor Emanuel will implement a merit pay program that will reward officers who outperform their peers.
“It’s simple math,” said the administration source. “The more time an officer spends patrolling their beat, the more crimes are prevented. The citizens of Chicago need and deserve to have less crime. This will also allow the City to eliminate overtime costs of $100 million annually, without needing to hire more police officers. It will be called the Full Shift initiative. In this era of fiscal crisis we all need to sacrifice, and do more with less.”
However, a Chicago Police Department (CPD) official, who wished to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of the situation, was not able to confirm the cost savings. “I’m not sure where the Mayor’s Office is getting those numbers from. They haven’t asked anyone over here. This is the first we’re hearing about it.”
The city will also move to close five police stations on the south and west sides of the City, and consolidate the associated districts. “These areas of the City have seen dramatic population declines,’ said the administration source. “More than 200,000 residents have moved out of those districts, and based on a new police station utilization formula we developed, those five stations are now considered underutilized, and are a financial strain on the cash strapped department.” The source declined to explain the utilization formula.
The final item on the agenda is a pilot project to “Turnaround” a low performing police district. Which district is subjected to the Turnaround has yet to be determined. All of the police officers in the district will be replaced, and the district management will be turned over to a private entity. Emanuel will announce today that the City has signed a $20 million no-bid, sole source contract with Urban Police Leadership, a joint venture of Bechtel and Omni Consumer Products, to manage the Turnaround district.
Urban Police Leadership has also agreed to donate $1 million to fund the merit pay program, although sources insisted there was no connection between the donation and the awarding of the contract.
These changes come as Mayor Emanuel is besieged on all sides. The courts recently stuck down his pension reforms, Governor Rauner has made clear there will be no relief from Springfield, and public opinion polls have consistently shown Chicago residents siding with the CTU over Emanuel by a wide margin.
The Hall spoke with an Emanuel campaign aide, who requested to remain anonymous due to concerns about retaliation. “It’s no coincidence that the policing agenda is being released on a day the CTU is staging a protest strike. Rahm is desperate to change the subject. He is under tremendous pressure from his uber-wealthy republican donors. They have kicked in tens of millions of dollars to his campaigns, expecting him to break one of the public employee unions. He hasn’t delivered, and they’re getting impatient. Scott Walker got it done, they say, so why can’t Rahm? Since he failed with the teachers, he needs to switch gears, and the police union looks like an easy target.”