Chicago pulls tactical officers from jobs, puts them in beat cars

(AP Photo/Paul Beaty, File)

Chicago is, like many major cities, gripped in a horrific crime wave. The homicide rate hit a 25-year high last year, just as one example of how bad it is.

As a result, the so-called leadership in the Windy City is trying to address the problem. However, some of their initial moves have been…well, let’s just call them “less than inspired.” Threatening to demote officers unless more arrests are made isn’t really great for morale.

Then again, a recent move likely designed to put more officers on the streets isn’t likely to help.

Chicago police commanders were told Saturday that most of their tactical officers were being reassigned to patrolling streets in beat cars and responding to 911 calls, prompting members of tactical units in two districts to quit those teams, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

The move came days after Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Police Supt. David Brown threatened to demote police leaders who can’t generate more arrests and community outreach as the city grapples with a continued surge in violent crime, sources with knowledge of the meeting said. The two leaders specifically warned underperforming tactical officers would be bumped down to beat cars.

District commanders were then told Saturday that 60% of their tactical officers were being moved to beat cars, leading members of the tactical units in the Central (1st) and Grand Central (25th) police districts to leave their posts, sources said.

Three sources — all police supervisors — told the Sun-Times they’re alarmed about the potentially dangerous effects of depleting tactical units responsible for proactive policing like responding to gunfire and gang disturbances and conducting surveillance.

Tactical officers play a pivotal role making high-level arrests and taking guns off the street, efforts Brown touted last month as some of the department’s few bright spots during the city’s most violent year in a quarter-century.

And let’s be honest, no one should be surprised that tactical officers are quitting rather than going back on the streets.

Making it onto a tactical team is tough. It’s supposed to be tough.

But it’s also a kind of promotion. You earn your spot on that team so you can get out of the squad car. You’re still doing police work, but you’re doing a different kind of police work.

So, from these officers’ perspective, just a short time after hearing that officers who don’t make enough arrests will face being demoted, they find themselves essentially demoted despite doing their jobs well.

No wonder some of them are walking.

Now, that said, I get where the Chicago PD is coming from. It’s hard enough to get officers to put on the streets and you need more officers on the streets, so where are they going to come from? Then you’ve got these teams sitting there who get used regularly, but who can otherwise be available to put in a squad car.

So of course the leadership in Chicago is going to at least think about it.

That doesn’t mean it’s a good idea, though.

Then again, what would probably help is making it easier for law-abiding citizens to get a gun to use to protect themselves. Unfortunately, the odds of that happening aren’t exactly stellar.