With Murder Rates Up, Mayor Emanuel Reverses Course on Chicago Policing

With 44 murders in Chicago for January alone, including that of a 15-year old girl who took part in President Obama's inauguration last month, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has announced a return to policing tactics he abandoned when he came to office.

The new plan is to resurrect the tactical teams of officers designed to break up gang activity whenever it picks up. This is a major policy reversal since "disbanding such large teams was one of several moves that Emanuel's hand-picked police superintendent, Garry McCarthy, took nearly two years ago." In fact, it appears all of this comes back to a campaign promise Emanuel made when running for office.

Emanuel inherited a police force of nearly 12,500 officers, including special tactical units known as the Targeted Response Unit and the Mobile Strike Force. These units were there to respond to gang activity and prevent hot spots of crime and violence spinning out of hand. As a result, murder rates in the city dropped from 513 in 2008 down to 435 in 2011, the year Rahm took office.

But Emanuel had campaigned on a promise to put 1,000 more officers on patrol. He attempted to keep this promise not by hiring more officers--in fact the number has dropped by several hundred as a result of retirements--but by disbanding the tactical units and combining precincts.

The results of that decision have not been positive. At the end of December 2012, police announced that the city had surpassed 500 murders that year, the highest total since 2008 and a 17 percent increase over 2011. Now the Mayor is recreating the very "saturation teams" he and his hand-picked police chief dismantled two years ago.

Jawanza Malone, who runs a community organization in the city, was critical of the move: "The police we had, the beat cops that we knew were all replaced and the commanders we had relationships with were all gone. So I had to laugh today when I heard Mayor Emanuel say he is going to put 200 more cops on the street, because that is the same thing we were promised a year and half ago."


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