Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy is exploring the politically volatile idea of closing district police stations to save millions and free scores of officers for street duty, reports the Chicago Sun-Times. McCarthy is under the gun to cut at least $190 million from the police department's $1.3 billion-a-year budget. He is under pressure to put more police officers on beat patrol at a time when the city can't afford to hire more officers. Chicago has 25 police districts, each with its own station.
For every station closed, dozens of officers could be made available for street duty. Building maintenance, utilities and renovation costs also would be reduced. High-ranking officials confirm that police station closings are under serious consideration and that the “dynamic and complex” decision would be based not just on the age of the buildings but also on demographics and crime in the surrounding neighborhood. Nearly 20 years ago, then-Mayor Richard M. Daley touched off a political firestorm when he embraced a consultant's proposal to close seven police stations to free 400 officers for community policing. Community leaders from the targeted neighborhoods held rallies and launched petition drives. Daley backed off, vowing to test community policing in a handful of districts to “convince people it works” before ever again proposing consolidating stations.