About 1,000 Chicago police officers assigned to administrative work will be enlisted in the war on drugs, the Chicatgo Tribune reports. Some of the officers have not been on the streets for many years, but Police Superintendent Philip Cline expects them to spend one week of every five trying to disrupt operations at the city’s 100 top open-air drug markets.
In the patrol ranks, “there is nobody exempt,” Cline said. “Officers who are on my staff, on the first deputy’s staff, everybody is going to take their turn in the field. We feel this is such a problem that we want to commit these resources.”
“I will be out there, but I don’t think I will do eight hours there,” Cline said. “I have some other things to do, but I am not afraid to go on the street.” Mayor Richard Daley, who joined Cline at a news conference yesterday after a police recruit graduation, said the program is part of the department’s effort to stem an alarming number of homicides. Almost half of the murders in Chicago are drug- or gang-related, he said. Open-air markets present special problems because when there is shooting, innocent bystanders, passersby, and nearby residents are at risk of getting hit in the crossfire, he said.
Though drug operations could move when the officers appear at established drug spots, the heat will cause problems for dealers, Cline said. “Customers are used to coming to a specific location. If they come to that location and see a squad car, the dope dealers haven’t advertised in the paper to say, `We have moved our spot to here.’ So [customers] are going to have to find it. We are going to disrupt their activity.”
The 1,000 officers will get briefings and watch videos on how open-air drug markets work, Cline said. Though some have been off the street for long stretches, “they still carry a gun and star,” he said. “They can go out there and do it.”
The anti-drug rotation is not meant to be punitive. “I know the perception is that `house cats’ don’t do anything, but the people in this building work very hard and perform very critical jobs,” spokesman David Bayless said. “But we need them to do more and need them to focus on what this department’s No. 1 priority is right now.”