OCT 04, 2021
Brown to face aldermen, defend $1.9B police budget after deadly summer
Chicago Police Department Supt. David Brown is set to face questions during a marathon budget hearing on Monday.
The City Council is poised on Monday to kick off its final week of budget hearings by picking apart the $1.9 billion proposed budget for the Chicago Police Department, typically one of the longest and most contentious of departmental hearings aldermen attend to each fall.
Aldermen will also grill Ghian Foreman, president of the Chicago Police Board, about his plans for the agency responsible for disciplining or firing officers found guilty of police misconduct.
Monday will be Chicago Police Department Supt. David Brown’s first time facing aldermen since July 1, when he withstood six hours of questioning during a special City Council meeting called to discuss the department’s strategy for heading off summer violence. Brown spent much of the hearing blaming the city’s violence on leniency in the Cook County court system, deflecting a crush of challenges from progressive aldermen and county officials who denied the correlation.
Shootings and murders have not subsided in the months since. The city logged more than 2,700 shootings through Sept. 30 this year, outpacing last year’s already elevated violence, and September saw more homicides than the city has suffered since 1992.
It is against that backdrop that the police department will embark on an aggressive recruitment push in the next year to make up for an unprecedented wave of retirements, according to city officials.
Under Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s budget proposal, the department will see its spending expand from about $1.71 billion to $1.9 billion next year — but the boost does not represent an attempt to reverse last year’s purge of 600 vacant employee slots from the department’s budget. Instead, it would maintain the department’s current number of full-time equivalent positions around 14,100, while pumping in millions in salary boosts guaranteed under the collective bargaining agreement approved for rank-and-file officers last month.
Instead of adding new positions, the department will work to plug the 1,000-plus additional vacancies that have opened up since last year, as a surge of officers and supervisors have retired or called it quits.
Budget Director Susie Park told aldermen in August that the city plans to speed up new academy classes to catch up on recruitment after new academy classes were frozen at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic last year. Department of Human Resources Comm. Christopher Owen said last week that the department will host a new police entrance exam each of the next three months. And Lightfoot told The Daily Line last month that her budget plan equips the police department with a “full-time recruitment team” to scour the country for new officers.
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A report from Deputy Inspector General for Public Safety Deborah Witzburg earlier this year found that the entrance exam and other aspects of the department’s recruitment process have weeded out Black applicants, setting back city leaders’ goal of diversifying the department.
The department charted out a goal in its 2022 budget plan to “attract and hire qualified candidates for the position of police officer that reflect an ethnically, racially, and gender diverse cross-section of the Chicago communities that CPD serves,” according to budget documents.
Brown is also likely to face questions from aldermen over the department’s slow progress on the litany of systemic reforms required under an ongoing federal consent decree. The department acknowledged in court last month that it missed the deadline to implement more than half of the reforms a judge had mapped out for the first half of this year.
And police leaders will have to answer on Monday to a coalition of progressive aldermen who have called to defund the department in favor of boosts to economic development and social services. Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20) told The Daily Line in August that she will not vote to approve Lightfoot’s 2022 spending plan if it includes “one dollar” in additional funding for policing.
The Chicago Police Board is set to see a modest uptick in its budget, reflecting pay hikes for two full-time staffers. The board is responsible for adjudicating discipline in police misconduct cases reviewed by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability.
The board has set a goal for next year to “establish a good working relationship” with the new Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability established by the City Council under a long-fought ordinance (SO2019-4132) in July.
Lightfoot last month introduced an ordinance (O2021-4131) to formally let the Chicago Police Board hear appeals from people who want to be removed from the police department’s controversial gang database. A report from the Inspector General’s office found in March that the police board has no formal process for considering such appeals.
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