Police forces may be redistributed

By Contributing Writer

by: Heather McGraw, Contributing Writer

Chicago Police Supt. Jody Weis is proposing to shift more manpower to high crime areas, to the dismay of some in lower-crime neighborhoods who are afraid they will

be shortchanged.

The proposal was announced at the City Council budget hearing on Oct. 19, but the recent retirement of more than 100 officers reignited the debate leaving some aldermen up in arms.

“The Chicago Police Department is currently reviewing resource allocation and considering ways to better balance personnel resources across the city,” said Maureen Biggane, commanding officer of News Affairs for the CPD.

The issue of resource shifting will likely be an important topic of discussion in the upcoming city elections.

Biggane said it has been three decades since a major review or restructuring of resources has happened, but the plan remains in preliminary stages.

“The superintendent’s goal is to have a solid plan outlined by Jan. 1, 2011,” Biggane said. “However, this does not entail realigning districts or beats.”

Alderman Ed Smith (28th Ward) represents the Garfield Park neighborhood and agrees with Weis’ proposal.

“I think it’s a good idea because some of the areas really need more police force,” Smith said. “I can say my ward is inundated with certain crime.”

Alderman Robert Fioretti (2nd Ward) opposes shifting forces, arguing that the real problem is an overall shortage of

police officers.

“Moving resources doesn’t make up for a lack of political will in filling the vacancies [displayed] by the City Council,” Fioretti said.

Fioretti was considering a mayoral run before being diagnosed with tonsil cancer earlier this year. He has instead decided to run for re-election in the 2nd Ward but plans to continue advocating for more police.

“I’m going to push the next mayor, whoever he or she is, to make sure they fulfill the commitment,” Fioretti said. “We vote to fund [police], but we have no intention of filling all those vacancies. That’s where the problem lies.”

Fioretti said Chicago is currently 1,000 officers short, a situation worsened when 100 additional officers recently retired

with little likelihood they will be replaced.

“We’re balancing the budget on the backs of the police department by having all those vacancies,” Fioretti said.

The downtown area, represented by Fioretti, is a specific concern to him because of the large number of people who travel in and out of it every day.

“We have high security issues,” Fioretti said. “We have Homeland Security [needs that are] much greater in the downtown area than any other area because of all the train stations.”

But Fioretti said if a shift of forces is implemented, students on downtown campuses have no reason to become more anxious about safety.

“Don’t forget there is security on all the campuses and we’ve been trying to arrange much more security,” Fioretti said.

Martha Meegan, director of Campus Safety and Security at Columbia, said her office is aware of the issue.

“The Office of Campus Safety and Security has already responded to this situation with a redeployment of patrol resources,” Meegan said.

But campus safety will not fall on Columbia’s security forces alone. Biggane said the CPD’s top priority remains the safety

of citizens.

“Our mission is to always provide superior police service to all residents and visitors of Chicago,” Biggane said.

But Fioretti is not satisfied, noting police visibility has a major impact on citizens feeling safe.

“I hear it over and over from the people,” Fioretti said. “Perception is reality, and they want more police officers out there.”