Grants from the federal stimulus package will give the Chicago Police Department an extra $20 million to spend on overtime for officers and new equipment in the coming months, according to the department.
The funds come at an opportune time as crime typically increases with the temperatures. Critics, though, feel the extra cash should be spent on hiring new officers instead of paying an already strained force to work additional hours.
“Staffing is always a problem,” said Mark P. Donahue, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, Chicago Lodge 7. “It’s only gotten worse since last January.”
But, he added, “As long as they spend it (stimulus funds) on manpower, we’re for it.”
Although the department isn’t hiring any new officers with stimulus funding, spokesperson Roderick Drew said police will spend $9.1 million of the money to concentrate patrols in high-crime areas through a program called Project Safe City.
Though officers working overtime will put more police on the streets, some doubt the long-term sustainability of such a plan.
“Nine million dollars? I don’t know how that would alleviate the problem,” said Gerald Frazier, president of Citizen’s Alert, a community-based, police accountability watchdog group. Referring to recent complaints from aldermen that police are already overwhelmed with calls for service, Frazier said: “We don’t want police officers that are overworked.”
Frazier also had other ideas about how the department should spend the stimulus money, including hiring specialized staff.
“It may not be a bad idea to bring some people on board who deal with youth violence to match the crime trends,” Frazier said.
Instead, the Chicago Police Department will use the remaining stimulus funds to upgrade aging equipment. The money will be used to purchase 238 new police vehicles and 543 in-car cameras.