A year after disbanding the scandal-plagued Chicago police Special Operations Section, Superintendent Jody Weis is launching a similar unit to fight gangs, reports the Chicago Tribune. In a draft memo to his command staff, Weis said he is giving former SOS officers first crack at applying for the elite assignment. The new 115-officer unit will be called the Mobile Strike Force, but its mission will be almost identical to SOS. SOS was disbanded last October amid a scandal over a team of officers who are alleged to have robbed and kidnapped victims for years under the guise of police work. Seven officers are awaiting trial on criminal charges.
Weis, a former FBI official who was hired in part to clean up the department’s image in the wake of the SOS scandal, plans to launch the new unit on Oct. 31, Halloween night. While department leaders acknowledged that SOS needed to be broken up because of the scandal, they’ve been hard-pressed to recreate the positive crime-fighting aspects of the unit as gang violence and the murder rate have risen by nearly 20 percent over last year. Specialized antigang units have been a double-edged sword for decades in the Chicago Police Department. Their officers make many arrests and take violent drug dealers off the streets; department leaders said they were key to a 25 percent drop in homicides in 2004.