CHICAGO (Reuters) - Chicago’s police department plans to hire nearly 1,000 officers over the next two years in a bid to combat a surge of violence in the third-largest U.S. city that has included more than 500 murders this year, the city’s police chief said on Wednesday.
Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said the emphasis would be on bolstering a depleted detective division, increasing leadership and focusing on policing on the city’s most violent areas.
“This will make us a bigger department, a better department and more effective department,” Johnson told dozens of officers and reporters on Wednesday.
The department will add 516 patrol officers, 92 field-training officers, 112 sergeants, 50 lieutenants and 200 detectives, police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said in a post on social media.
Johnson said that these new officers would result in an overall increase of sworn officer positions from around 12,500 to around 13,500. He said this increased level would be reached by the end of 2018.
Chicago is struggling with a wave of violence that has included 509 murders in the city already this year, according to Chicago Police Department statistics, a 46 percent increase from last year.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel had been reluctant to hire more officers, relying instead on existing officers to work overtime. He is scheduled to give a speech on the city’s crime problem on Thursday night.
Johnson said on Wednesday that he wanted to rebuild the detective unit. Figures show that this unit has dwindled to 922 from 1,252 in 2008.
Over the past 10 years Chicago has consistently had one of the lowest murder clearance rates of unsolved cases of any of the country’s 10 biggest cities, according to data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Chicago Police Department.
Johnson said that the decision to increase the police force came following discussions with the mayor but said that he had no information on how Chicago planned to pay for the addition of new officers.
The city of 2.7 million is struggling with chronic budget deficits, a big unfunded pension liability and falling credit ratings.
The mayor said on Wednesday that he would not raise taxes to pay for the new officers and that the city would have the resources to meet the cost but offered no details.
“It will be in black and white in the budget,” he said.
Editing by Will Dunham and Diane Craft