Aldermen upset about area police officers being sent to West Side for ‘surge’ mission
by BRIAN NADIG
Large numbers of Northwest and North Side police officers are being assigned at night to West Side “surge” missions which reportedly are designed in part to get residents to stay home during the pandemic.
On Wednesday evening, April 22, seven police districts on the Northwest and North sides, including the 16th (Jefferson Park) and 17th (Albany Park), were each directed to send 10 officers and one sergeant from the third watch and the first watch to a West Side neighborhood.
For Thursday night, April 23, the same number of officers are being requested for a similar mission.
“This is completely unacceptable,” Alderman Anthony Napolitano (41st) said. “We have been getting screwed for 20 years with our tactical officers in the 16th District being taken out (and) now they’re taking our beat officers.”
Napolitano said that officers who were assigned to the mission are telling him that they were instructed to disperse crowds based on the stay-at-home order.
The city should not be “robbing” some neighborhoods of police protection in order to tell other communities that there is “a pandemic and to go home” given how virtually all of the news on television and other sources is about the coronavirus and the importance of social distancing, Napolitano said. The city should find other ways, such as posting large banners, to better educate the public about the stay-at-home order, he said.
Napolitano said that aldermen talked Thursday afternoon with new Chicago Police Department Superintendent David Brown, who told them that he did not intend to “blindside” them with the surges and that the main focus of the surges is to reduce homicides and shootings.
Napolitano said that aldermen want to work with Brown to address problems of violence but that taking officers away from under-staffed Northwest Side districts is not the best solution.
Alderman James Gardiner (45th) said that the reassignment of area officers to other parts of the city has been a “repeated problem” and that the concerns expressed by him and other aldermen “seem to be falling on deaf ears” and “at the end of the day (those making these decisions) should be held accountable for their actions. … I said it to superintendent (Eddie) Johnson, I said it to (interim Charlie) Beck and I’ll say it to Brown.”
Gardiner said that his top priority is to make sure the Northwest Side does not “become an area of higher crime.”
“We need to nip this in the bud,” Alderman Nicholas Sposato (38th) said. He added that in the past the department has described the reassignment of officers as a “one-time” event only to have it occur again.
The April 23 directive to the seven police districts also includes the officers being assigned to the parking lot area at Portage Park, 4100 N. Long Ave., for one hour. One City Hall source said that the one-hour assignment appeared to be a maneuver to “shut up” those aldermen complaining that the city was putting extra resources in only one area of the city.
According to police sources, problems with large gatherings have been more prevalent on the South and West sides than in other parts of the city.
City health officials have reported that the death rate from the coronavirus has been disproportionately higher in disadvantaged communities, where underlying health conditions in patients may be more likely to have gone untreated for years due to inadequate access to health care.