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Crime Chicago police announce major restructuring, moving detectives and specialized cops to patrol districts to take on violence

04:25  31 january  2020
04:25  31 january  2020 Source:   chicagotribune.com

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Chicago police announce major restructuring , moving detectives and specialized cops to patrol districts to take on violence . Interim Chicago police Superintendent Charlie Beck unveiled a massive restructuring Thursday that will move hundreds of detectives and narcotics and gang

[Most read] Chicago police announce major restructuring , moving detectives and specialized cops to patrol districts to take on violence ». Pritzker also called on lawmakers to address new clean energy legislation and cited climate change in Illinois “with a polar vortex, devastating floods, record

Interim Chicago police Superintendent Charlie Beck unveiled a massive restructuring Thursday that will move hundreds of detectives and narcotics and gang officers from specialized units to police districts in a bid to bring added resources and better coordination to combating violence.

Charlie Beck, Anton Newcombe standing next to a man in a suit and tie: Chicago police Interim Superintendent Charlie Beck, center, arrives at the Chicago Bar Association to talk about curbing gun violence in Chicago, Jan. 29, 2020.© Abel Uribe / Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS Chicago police Interim Superintendent Charlie Beck, center, arrives at the Chicago Bar Association to talk about curbing gun violence in Chicago, Jan. 29, 2020. Charlie Beck et al. wearing military uniforms: Chicago police Interim Superintendent Charlie Beck, center, and Mayor Lori Lightfoot sit with new members of the department prior to a graduation ceremony at Navy Pier, Dec. 18, 2019.© Abel Uribe / Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS Chicago police Interim Superintendent Charlie Beck, center, and Mayor Lori Lightfoot sit with new members of the department prior to a graduation ceremony at Navy Pier, Dec. 18, 2019.

The reorganization also creates a new office to carry out policing reforms required by a federal consent decree -- headed by the highest-ranking African-American woman in the department’s history.

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In another major change, Beck said counter-terrorism would be the sole focus of another bureau, an operation that “will get everything they need," he vowed.

Beck’s plan lays much of the responsibility for the fight against violence on a deputy chief in each of five geographic areas, as well as the commanders in the city’s 22 districts.

They will oversee the department’s patrol and tactical officers and take on responsibility as well for cops who work on gang and drug investigations and detectives who investigate nonfatal shootings, robberies and other crimes.

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune ahead of the announcement, Beck said the idea is to give added resources to the department leaders in closest contact with residents and communities where the violence occurs.

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But with greater resources comes responsibility. Those who fail to reduce the violence will be held accountable, he said.

“CPD needs to be all in, all about reducing gun violence, reducing shootings and homicides, and the people that we hold most responsible for that are these geographic commands," Beck said of the five area deputy chiefs and 22 district commanders. “And so we have to give them all these resources. If you’re going to hold them accountable for crime, you’ve got to give them, in my opinion, the tools, the full array of tools that can affect that thorough policing.”

The reorganization marks the most significant step taken by Beck since Mayor Lori Lightfoot tapped the former longtime Los Angeles police chief as her surprise choice to temporarily lead the department while the search continues to replace outgoing Superintendent Eddie Johnson.

Beck had planned to succeed Johnson on his retirement on Jan. 1, but Lightfoot abruptly fired Johnson on Dec. 2, saying he had intentionally misled her about his conduct after a late weeknight out in October when he was found asleep in his running vehicle. Beck flew in from LA that afternoon to take charge.

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He arrived at a critical moment – the infancy of the Police Department’s efforts to enact reforms in the fallout over the fatal police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

The reorganization is considered a critical step toward positioning the department to not only implement the consent decree but also bring Chicago’s violence more in line with Los Angeles and New York City, both bigger cities.

To overhaul training and enact other reforms, Beck created an Office of Constitutional Policing and Reform, appointing as its head Barbara West, the first African-American woman to ascend this high in the department.

The reform office will be placed at the very top of the department organization structure with the Office of Operations, which will spearhead the effort to continue to tamp down violence after three consecutive years of declines in shootings and homicides. That office will be led by First Deputy Superintendent Anthony Riccio,

Making the Reform and Operations offices co-equals signals that changing how officers engage with citizens is just as important to the department as reducing violence, Beck said.

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The department currently divides Chicago into three geographic areas, but the patrol, detective, gang and narcotics functions within those areas largely operated independently of each other.

That will change in dramatic fashion under Beck’s plan. More than 800 gang and narcotics officers in addition to 300 detectives who investigate nonfatal shootings, robberies and other property crimes will be reassigned to the districts. Only homicide detectives will remain a standalone section because of their specialized nature of work, reporting to the chief of the detectives, not the area deputy chiefs or district commanders.

In his two months in office, Beck has repeatedly said the main hurdle for any police department struggling to reform is to win over the community’s trust.

In outlining the key parts of his restructuring, Beck signaled that assigning specialized officers and detectives to the control of the five area deputy chiefs and 22 district commanders was aimed at achieving that goal.

“When you’re assigned to a piece of geography, you not only have ownership in the results that you achieve because that is now the turf that you’re responsible for, but you’re also much more likely to engender trust if you work with the same community and begin to understand that community in a much better way," he told the Tribune. “Part of community policing is being responsive to the community in the way that you police, and our most ‘response people’ are the ones that are tied to that geography. And I want that to be part of what our detectives feel, too.”

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Despite an improvement in 2019, the department has struggled in recent years with low rates of solving homicides, falling at one point to as many as 20 percentage points below the national average and earning the department considerable criticism.

A review by the Police Executive Research Forum, a law enforcement think tank, found several flaws with Chicago’s detective division, including poor supervision and a lack of attention to nonfatal shootings. Among the forum’s myriad recommendations were assigning detectives closer to neighborhoods -- a step that Beck’s plan would carry out.

The new counter-terrorism bureau would include the SWAT team, bomb squad and other units in which Chicago police work with the FBI.

Beck made it clear the effort to root out terrorism threats will get beefed-up resources, but he declined to be specific on how many officers will be reassigned to that task.

“They will get everything they need. ...We’re going to make sure that is it robustly staffed,” he said. “It’s really important to have somebody that has their finger on the pulse of what’s going on nationally and internationally."

Beck believes the rank-and-file will be amenable to the structural changes, though that may take a while for some officers.

“Nobody likes change, least of all police officers. We’re naturally conservative people. ...Change is always difficult,” he said. “Once they understand that they will be a bigger part of a larger team working on the problems that really matter to Chicago, I think that they will come around on it.”

When it’s all in place, Beck said the new structure would go a long way in helping the department make Chicago a safer place.

Outsiders who have led the department before Beck have tried to make their mark with organizational changes as well, with varying degrees of success.

Past superintendents have shifted specialized resources to the districts to respond to violence – but never at this level, Beck told the Tribune.

And this time, the reassigned officers from specialized teams will answer to the same boss – the deputy area chief – in hopes that all the varying skills can be deployed quickly and in coordination to stop the unrelenting shootings.

asweeney@chicagotribune.com

jgorner@chicagotribune.com

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Man carrying knife arrested outside White House after threat .
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