If they stick to tradition, Chicago aldermen will spend much of Monday’s annual Police Department budget hearing heaping praise on the patrol commanders that work in their wards.
And they’ll spend comparatively little time questioning Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson about how his department has been using its nearly $1.7 billion budget this year — and about Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s proposal to hike that sum by 7.3% for the coming year.
Lightfoot’s 195-page city budget proposal, unveiled last month, spells out a number of policing changes.
To help improve the department’s dismal solve rates for murders and nonfatal shootings, her administration is promising to increase the number of neighborhood Bureau of Detectives stations to five from three.
The change would reverse a 2012 budget-trimming move by then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration, which closed two of those stations — a decision panned by detectives for increasing their distance from witnesses and making it harder to preserve crime-scene evidence.
In another vow, Lightfoot says the police department will shift many sworn officers from desk jobs into neighborhood crime fighting — a perennial promise of Chicago mayors.
The budget proposal also promises police investments in technology, training, officer wellness and street-cop supervision — all part of complying with a police-reform agreement known as the consent decree.
After a big CPD expansion during Emanuel’s last two years in office, Lightfoot’s budget trims 249 positions from the department, reducing sworn and civilian positions to 14,709.
At least some of those civilian staffers will end up in Lightfoot’s proposed new Office of Public Safety Administration (PSA), an effort to combine various bureaucratic functions of CPD, the Fire Department and the Office of Emergency Management and Communications.
Lightfoot’s budget proposal says the PSA “will allow CPD, CFD and OEMC to focus solely on their core mission to keep city residents safe [and] lay the groundwork for future long-term efficiencies.”
In a step toward greater “accountability,” the budget proposal says the city will begin requiring all CPD and CFD employees to swipe a device each time they begin or end a shift. The proposal is mute on how many staff hours have been wasted without that system.
Johnson’s appearance before aldermen comes as Lightfoot’s staff talks about the possibility of turning to property taxes to fill a huge city budget gap if Springfield fails to allow a proposed real-estate transfer tax and make a Chicago casino a reality.
The police budget hearing also follows months of speculation that Lightfoot may dump Johnson as superintendent. That speculation increased last month when Johnson was found sleeping in his car and, later, Lightfoot said he had admitted to drinking alcohol that night.
The city’s inspector general’s office is investigating Johnson’s conduct and why the responding officers allowed him to drive home without a field sobriety test.