The Chicago City Council is considering allocating more than $1.5 billion to the city’s police department in 2019, an increase of more than $35 million compared to the current budget.
Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson and his command staff answered questions about the proposed budget in a hearing at City Hall on Tuesday.
Here are a few major takeaways from the budget hearing:
More mental health treatment for officers
Right now, the department has only three therapists for 13,000 officers. The proposed 2019 budget calls for adding seven more therapists, as well as an assistant director for the counseling division.
Chief Barbara West said the department also is launching a suicide-prevention campaign, something that would be required in the broad police reform plan presented to a federal judge last month.
Over the weekend, an off-duty detective took his own life, making him the fourth officer to die by suicide this year.
“For many years, we’ve avoided that issue [of suicide],” West said. “And now we see the need that we have to face that issue dead on.”
A federal investigation into the Chicago Police Department found that the suicide rate for Chicago officers is considerably higher than the national average for law enforcement officers.
A mixed record on solving murders
Chicago detectives solved fewer than 20 percent of homicides in 2017.
At Tuesday’s hearing, Chief of Detectives Melissa Staples said the department’s record on murders this year has been about the same. The department has cleared about 17 percent of 2018 murders so far.
However, Staples said the department is doing a better job solving murders that occurred in past years. With those clearances added to this year’s numbers, the department calculates its 2018 solve rate at 41 percent.
Staples said that figure is the highest in almost a decade, and she credited the addition of almost 350 detectives in the past two years.
The department seems to be getting a handle on OT
In 2017, the department drew a lot of attention when its overtime bill ballooned to almost $160 million, more than twice the budgeted amount.
The proposed budget for 2019 is $95 million for police overtime, the same amount budgeted for 2018.
Johnson told aldermen Tuesday the department will stay within the overtime budget for 2018 and he believes that number will hold for next year, too.
The city still isn’t being realistic about cost of police lawsuits
The proposed 2019 budget for the department includes $35 million for legal fees and payouts from lawsuits related to actions by police officers. Past years show that won’t be nearly enough.
In 2017 the city budgeted a little less than $20 million for police lawsuits, and law department data show the city spent more than $50 million. For 2018, the budget was again about $20 million; by the end of August, the city had spent more than $60 million on lawsuits related to the police department. That puts the city on pace for more than $90 million.
Patrick Smith is a criminal justice reporter for WBEZ. Follow him @pksmid