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Sep 21, 11:03 PM EDT

Chicago to hire hundreds more officers to combat violence


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CHICAGO (AP) -- Chicago's police department will add 970 new positions over the next two years, its superintendent announced Wednesday, saying the move will help combat the dramatic increase in shootings and homicides that has left thousands injured and hundreds dead this year.

But Mayor Rahm Emanuel didn't explain how the city, which is grappling with financial woes that threaten basic services, will pay for the hiring spree.

Superintendent Eddie Johnson said at a news conference that he asked for additional officers and Emanuel "delivered." The plan, which will start in January 2017, is to add 516 new officers, 92 field-training officers, 200 detectives, 112 sergeants and 50 lieutenants. The changes will increase the number of sworn officers from about 12,500 to about 13,500; Johnson said vacancies will be filled on top of the new hires.

"I'm confident that these added resources will make us better," Johnson said. He also acknowledged CPD's issues and said accountability is key. "We'll train and mentor officers who make honest mistakes, but I will not tolerate intentional misconduct," he said.

Johnson said he did not receive details from the mayor's office about how the city would pay for what his spokesman later said was the largest hiring effort since at least the 1990s, only that the mayor had assured him it could be done. But the city's budget office confirmed that the price tag for each first-year police officer, when salary, benefits and supervision are factored in, will cost the city $138,000 a year - a figure that when multiplied by 970 adds up to close to $134 million.

When asked about how the city would pay for it, Emanuel would only say that Chicago "will have the resources."

"That is a question that remains unanswered," Alderman Danny Solis said before the news conference, adding that Emanuel recently assured him the hiring can be done without raising taxes; the council approved new water and sewer tax increases earlier this month.

The plan marks a departure for Emanuel, who has relied on overtime - more than $100 million annually in recent years - to combat crime, arguing that it was an effective and less expensive way to combat crime than hiring more officers.

Both Solis and fellow Alderman Howard Brookins Jr. said that whatever the cost for the new plan, it might not add up to all that much more money than the city is already paying in overtime. Though overtime will certainly not disappear, Brookins said he expected it to decrease significantly.

Brookins, who has expressed concern about the effects increased overtime was having on officers, thinks the new hires may reduce stress among the force, which could in turn cut down on the number of citizen complaints and police misconduct lawsuits that the city has settled for tens of millions of dollars.

Johnson seemed to agree.

"I am a firm believer that if people are tired and overworked they start making bad decisions," he said in an interview after his news conference.

The president of the Chicago police union applauded Wednesday's announcement.

"We have been pushing for more bodies since this administration took office ... and I don't know if it was me or all the crime or the silent majority being heard that they need and want more police presence," said Fraternal Order of Police President Dean Angelo. "Any move toward an increase in manpower is appreciated by us and law-abiding citizens."

Chicago has seen a dramatic rise in the number of shootings and homicides this year. In August alone, there were 90 homicides, marking the first time in two decades there have been that many in a single month. Overall, the city has recorded more than 500 homicides this year - higher than all of 2015 - and is on pace to climb past the 600-homicide mark for the first time since 2003. There have also been more than 2,500 shooting incidents so far this year, about 700 more than in the same time period last year.

Johnson said the new hires will help rebuild trust between the community and his department, which has long struggled with a reputation for police misconduct and brutality, especially after several recent police shootings.

"If we want to stop the violence we need to find and arrest the people that are responsible," he said. "If we want to earn the trust and respect of the people we serve, we need to take their pain seriously and investigate every crime as if it was a crime that happened to one of our own children."

However, activists who have called for additional community resources and leadership changes said resources should be used elsewhere.

"The causes of crime and intra-communal violence exist because of the conditions of poverty that Rahm Emanuel has exacerbated for Chicago," Black Lives Matter Chicago said in a statement. "What more policing will accomplish is more violence, more lock ups and more trauma for our already suffering communities."

Keeping up with this year's spike in crime, which Emanuel said Wednesday is a new phenomenon, has been a problem for CPD. The percentage of homicides that detectives have been able to solve has dropped significantly.

"So we're meeting it with a new response, which is more police, more technology, greater investment in mentoring, our summer jobs and our afterschool," he said.

Last year, the city was forced to release a video of a white officer fatally shooting black 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in 2014, sparking major protests as well as federal and local investigations. The fallout prompted Emanuel to fire his first police superintendent, Garry McCarthy at the end of last year.

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Associated Press writers Sophia Tareen and Caryn Rousseau contributed to this report.

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