CPD moves many district tactical cops to “rapid response” patrol cars — but the reason isn’t clear

Top Chicago police leaders have ordered the department’s 22 patrol districts to reassign 60% of their tactical police officers from unmarked patrol cars and specialized duties to work in uniform as “rapid response” units on a temporary basis, according to an email provided to CWBChicago.

But even some district commanders did not know why department brass ordered the change — or how long it would last.

Tactical teams typically focus on local crime hotspots, execute specialized missions, and provide fast responses to reports of violent and in-progress crimes, among other duties.

As an example, a tactical team in the Lakeview-based Town Hall police district interrupted a home invasion in progress on Sunday afternoon, according to a source. Charges were pending. That same tactical team has been disbanded and is no longer operational on Monday.

According to the email, the reassigned tactical officers will not be working in beat cars, which patrol specific slices of a district. Instead, they will work so-call “rapids” that provide speedy responses to breaking situations, not unlike one of the roles played by tactical teams.

The CPD memo said tactical officers would be moved to rapids “temporarily” during daytime and evening shifts “to supplement watch manpower and assist answering calls for service.”

That led several department sources to conclude the move may be a stop-gap move to fill a staffing shortfall caused by the latest COVID wave. CWBChicago reported last week that about 20% of CPD’s force is believed to be out sick, according to the Fraternal Order of Police, which represents the city’s front-line patrol officers.

Other department members aren’t so sure. They suggest the move may be an effort to eliminate the tactical units altogether.

Regardless of the motive, information provided to CWBChicago shows that some districts across the city have neither tactical teams nor rapid units operating overnight shifts when shootings and violent crime often peaks.

Meanwhile, Chicago’s Office of the Inspector General has published the latest staffing levels for CPD.

Data published by the Office of the Chicago Inspector General shows staffing levels declining in CPD’s Community Safety Team Unit as five Deputy Chiefs gain staffing. | OIG

It shows that the Community Safety Team, Supt. David Brown’s hallmark citywide team that was staffed by pulling cops out of local patrol districts, has been pared to 235 officers.

CST’s allotment of officers nosedived from 625 in October to 288 in November and now sits at 235, a loss of 390 officers. But those cops aren’t heading back to your local police districts. Just as the CST staffing declined, CPD began assigning dozens of cops to work under five deputy chiefs who oversee the department’s five patrol areas.

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