Chicago police reverse order on neighborhood tactical teams, sources say
The initial order limited time each day for when certain officers assigned to the city’s patrol districts can work the streets to instead focus on downtown
By Jeremy Gorner and Peter Nickeas
CHICAGO — The Chicago Police Department has canceled a directive that limited time each day for when certain officers assigned to the city’s 22 patrol districts can work the streets, a reversal of a policy it initiated late last week, according to sources.
The initial order issued Friday meant that no district tactical teams would be working morning shifts, reducing the number of officers patrolling neighborhoods for a good portion of the day.
The order required those teams — which make the most arrests in the districts and focus on crime patterns like burglaries, shootings and drug activity in the neighborhoods they cover — to begin their shifts no sooner than 4 p.m. each day unless they received permission from department brass to start earlier.
The policy reversal late Tuesday was issued hours after the Tribune reported on its website about the department’s initial tactical team order, in addition to a separate directive, issued Monday, deploying other officers from every district to guard the downtown area after its high-end stores got hit hard in late May and mid-August by looting and vandalism.
After the order was issued Friday, tactical team supervisors had to scramble to let officers know of the changes to their schedule. Supervisors were told late Tuesday night that they’d now be working as they were before Friday’s order, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the reversal.
A spokesman for the Chicago Police Department declined to say why the order was reversed.
Before the Tribune published the story Tuesday afternoon, a spokesman for Chicago police Superintendent David Brown said the department had made up for the loss of district officers by forming a new citywide unit currently staffed with about 500 and tasked with responding to sudden flare-ups in violence in neighborhoods away from downtown. He also said the city’s summer mobile patrol unit, a temporary citywide unit of about 200 cops, would be in place in the residential areas until November.
Many officers working in those units, however, had already been pulled from district patrols, and those units do not work in every neighborhood. But the police spokesman, Tom Ahern, insisted the department is “deeply invested in neighborhoods” and that all the changes weren’t leaving those areas of the city vulnerable.
“No doubt officers are detailed downtown, but neighborhoods are well-protected,” Ahern said.
Police sources have said the department’s downtown deployment plan over the summer following the Memorial Day death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minnesota and subsequent demonstrations and looting, has left a shortage of cops in some districts, raising concern among officers that they won’t be able to provide timely police service in neighborhoods. Over the years, patrol districts have routinely struggled to meet the demand for police service.
The rationale behind Friday’s tactical team policy appeared to deal in part with a shortage of police cars in the districts. Before the policy was canceled, it called for those officers to ride in marked squad cars when they normally patrol in unmarked cars. But if no marked cars were available, they were to ride up to four cops per unmarked squad car.
That meant a district whose tactical team normally operates with six squad cars could be reduced to three. That also further diminishes the number of cops in each neighborhood available to respond to 911 calls.
©2020 Chicago Tribune