Update 2:45 p.m. — Subsequent to our report, CPD rescinded the order that restricted district tactical team operations to 4 p.m. and later.
No one is talking about it — at least not yet — but this month will be the worst September for murder in Chicago since the early 1990s. That sad fact follows closely behind July, one of the single worst months for homicides in the city since modern recordkeeping began during the 1950s.
So, what are city leaders doing to reverse the trend?
They’re taking even more cops out of every single neighborhood across the city to sit on street corners downtown. You know, to spook away looters.
As of Tuesday evening, the independent crime analysis site HeyJackass.com recorded 81 homicides in Chicago during September.
That number is close to the number of slayings the city saw during the height of the early 1990’s gang wars: 83 murders in September 1990 and September 1993; 85 slain in September 1991; and 109 killed in September 1992, according to CPD records secured by CWBChicago.
At the other extreme, September 2010 had just 30 killings.
But, incredibly, police brass this week released two orders that limit how local districts’ tactical teams operate and require a chunk of cops assigned to each neighborhood to sit on downtown street corners.
Anyone who’s been downtown recently has seen them: seemingly endless rows of CPD squad cars sitting with their blue lights flashing along Michigan Avenue, Wacker Drive, and high-rent side streets. The tactic began after a second wave of looting ripped through the city’s retail corridors in August.
Paul Vallas, whose mayoral campaign was outdone by Lori Lightfoot in 2019, this week called the strategy “scarecrow policing.” And police brass is doubling-down on the policy.
In a September 28 memo titled “Downtown Daily Deployments Plan,” CPD Chief of Operations Brian McDermott ordered the department’s local districts to send groups of officers to sit on corners in the 1st (Central) and 18th (Near North) districts around the clock until further notice. The order is an expansion and continuation of a policy that first went into place after the August 10 looting.
McDermott’s order will draw cops off the streets of every neighborhood from Rogers Park to Mount Greenwood and from O’Hare to Hegewisch.
What will those officers be doing downtown? Sitting around with their blue lights flashing. Although McDermott tried to jazz it up with officialspeak: “While on post, Department members will be highly visible. Vehicles will have their Mars lights activated for the duration of their tour of duty.”
Meanwhile, the neighborhoods where generation-high murder tallies are being recorded will have fewer local beat cops available to connect with the community and handle surging violent crime.
Tactical team shuffle
Earlier this week, McDermott sent another memo that restricts local police districts’ tactical team operations. That order, titled “District Mission and Tactical Team Scheduling,” requires those specialized local teams to start work no earlier than 4 p.m. daily.
Mission and tactical teams typically address local crime patterns such as burglary waves and robbery streaks. But, until further notice, they’ll no longer be able to address those problems unless they occur after 4 p.m.
The teams also respond to rapidly-developing situations like shootings and other violent crimes. But, again, they’ll only be able to do that after 4 p.m. going forward, per McDermott’s order.
McDermott acknowledges in his memo that, since all of a district’s teams may be on the street simultaneously, there will likely not be enough cars for them to pair up in. So, McDermott ordered the units to roll with up to four cops per vehicle. Of course, having half as many cars on the street means half as much territory will be covered when teams are looking for suspects after shootings and other crimes break out.
CPD’s newly-formed community safety teams and summer mobile unit, which form the backbone of the department’s anti-violence strategy, will continue operating. But veteran officers are concerned about those teams, too.
When the department disbanded its citywide gang and saturation teams to form the new units in July, vacancies were filled by volunteers. And, when that didn’t produce nearly enough manpower, the slots were filled by reverse seniority.
In other words, many of the cops assigned to the city’s potentially most dangerous anti-violence assignments have the least amount of experience on the job.
“It’s dangerous,” one veteran officer said. “It’s a big deal.”
The use of reverse seniority to fill specialized vacancies may have contributed to a high-profile police shooting on the Red Line earlier this year.
As the teams were being formed to address soaring CTA crime, two cops assigned to the department’s Transit Detail tried to stop Ariel Roman after he passed between Red Line cars at the Grand Station.
CTA passengers recorded the rest on their phones: Roman and the two officers struggled at the base of the platform escalator.
One officer is heard yelling, “shoot him!”
Roman and that cop stagger to their feet, both clearly winded from the struggle.
Then, for no apparent reason, the second cop shoots Roman from just a few feet away. Roman, injured, takes off running up the escalator. The cop shoots again, apparently striking him in his back.
The officers who were involved in that incident had less than three years on the job — combined.
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