Thursday, February 14, 2019

Lincoln Park alderman uses "creative accounting" to boost police manpower counts

Michele Smith | Wikipedia
Lincoln Park Alderman Michele Smith (43) is doubling-down on a claim that police manpower in two districts that serve her ward increased by 136 officers last year. CWBChicago reported on Jan. 24 that district staffing information provided by the Chicago Inspector General shows that the districts only gained 78 officers last year.

Smith’s office was given ten days to provide input for our report, but they never followed up with us despite promising to do so.

Now, with election day closing in quick, Smith apparently wants to count officers assigned to detective divisions and regional units that are deployed to work in two-thirds of the city as being “assigned” to her 18th (Near North) and 19th (Town Hall) police districts.

Smith’s new way of counting flies in the face of long-established manpower tracking practices that even other aldermen use when counting police manpower.

In a tweet today, Smith declared that the inspector general’s office and CPD Chief of Patrol Fred Waller had “set the record straight about all the new police officers that have been added here in the 43rd Ward.”

Allow us to share what Waller said to us, demonstrate the consistent way that district manpower has been measured historically, and show you the new way of measuring cops that Smith is using to bamboozle her constituents.

CWBChicago reporters have been researching district-level police staffing numbers for nearly six years. At first, we had to request the information from the police department using Freedom of Information Act requests. In every manpower document that we have requested from CPD, district-level staffing is defined as the number of officers who are assigned to the district MINUS any of those officers who are “detailed out” to work elsewhere in the department PLUS any officers who are “detailed in” from elsewhere to work in the district. That measure provides the most accurate number of officers who actually report to work in the local district police stations to protect the district.

For about a year, the Office of the Inspector General has been publishing monthly police manpower data online.

19th District manpower reports from the OIG and Ald. Tom Tunney are consistent
Every month, the OIG’s posted numbers have varied from FOIA data by no more than one or two officers in a given month.

Lakeview Alderman Tom Tunney (44) shares 19th District manpower numbers every month in his constituent email. Tunney’s data is provided by the 19th District police commander. And his manpower counts are consistently within one or two officers of the OIG numbers and data received via FOIA.

So, there is clearly a well-defined and consistent way to measure district manpower.

Where did Smith get her inflated count of 136 officers? From CPD Chief of Patrol Fred Waller, according to one of her staff members. We talked with him today and asked where he got the number 136 when the OIG shows an increase of only 78 officers.

“That was the number who transferred in [to the 18th and 19th Districts] during the time period she gave,” Waller said. “It’s a fluid number.”

Note that the number didn’t include the number of officers who transferred out of the two districts or retired during the year in question.

To “set the record straight,” Smith now wants to include any detectives and officers assigned to area “Bureau of Patrol” units to count as being assigned to the 18th and 19th Districts even though those officers are actually assigned to work throughout Area North and Area Central—department divisions that sprawl across two-thirds of the city from Rogers Park to Austin and from O’Hare to Grand Crossing.

Under Smith's counting method, area-wide officers assigned to the yellow area should count as manpower in the 18th District (red) and area-wide officers assigned to the bright green area should count as manpower in the 19th District (dark green). That method of counting district staffing has never been used by the Chicago Police Department.
Of course, those officers are no more “assigned” to the 18th or 19th Districts than they are to any other part of the massive area their unit may be deployed to.

Bureau of Patrol units are “assigned to the Deputy Chief,” Waller said today. “They would not be used in” district manpower counts. And detectives would not count as district staffing either, Waller said.

But a letter to the Inside Publications newspaper chain complaining about our January report, Smith said both Bureau of Patrol and detective divisions should be counted toward her manpower totals. Smith wrote:
For example: "Bureau of Patrol - Area Central" and "Bureau of Patrol - Area North" (which encompass the 18th and 19th Districts) each includes officers which are detailed to the 18th and 19th Districts. This is also true for the Detective Division, which has seen growth in Area Central.
Both data sources say the same thing - there has been a significant increase in officers assigned to the 18th and 19th Districts, which in turn cover the 43rd Ward.
Might officers assigned to the area-wide units be assigned to do something in the 18th or 19th Districts? Absolutely. But they are no more a part of those districts’ manpower count than they are to the other districts in their areas. And, of course, when someone is robbed or shot in the 18th or 19th Districts, a detective from Area Central or Area North will be assigned to work that case. But the detectives are not assigned to the district.

Manipulating police manpower is nothing new for Smith. In 2014, she told a community meeting that their neighborhoods “have had increased patrols..sometimes you don’t always see it.” We labeled that whopper Smith’s “Ghost police” strategy. It seems her stripes have not changed.
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