A recent letter from Alderman Marty Quinn of the 13th Ward called for Superintendent Brown, head of the Chicago Police Department (CPD), to reverse the decision in which tactical officers would be reassigned to beat cars. This piece explains what that means.
Since 1994, Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) has been implemented in which communities, the police, and other Chicago agencies come together in order to solve crime problems. Under CAPS, a team of 8 to 9 officers are assigned to a police beat, in which Chicago has 277.
The idea is that police officers will patrol the same beat for a year and get to know people within their beat and people within the beat will get to know the officers. These beat officers primarily patrol in their squad cars or on foot. They also respond to calls for police service within their beat, both emergency and non-emergency. This can also be similarly understood as community policing.
There are various purposes of having a Tactical Response Unit (TRU), such as quickly stopping crimes in progress and documenting incidents that require a tactical response report (TRR). According to CPD, rapid response officers, another name for TRUs, respond to many of the emergency calls for service and are grouped into sectors, which are made up of 3 to 5 beats. The rapid response officers support the work of the beat officers by solving crimes and apprehending offenders, allowing beat officers to remain within their beat.
Chicago has already faced a loss of over 1200 police officers since April 2020. In 2020, 774 homicides took place, an increase of over 50% since the year 2019 in which there were 506 homicides. For 2021, there were 836 homicides in the city of Chicago, and it has not been that high since 1994. With many challenges to CPD, reassigning TRUs to become beat officers undermines the purpose of having the system of CAPS in place. This is particularly the case when the reduction of TRUs directly increases the workload of solving crimes and apprehending offenders by having fewer officers on these cases.
While increasing the number of beat officers patrolling and interacting with the communities creates a stronger presence of the CPD, if crimes do not get solved in a timely manner or newly directed beat officers eventually return to being TRUs, then having them become beat officers in the first place undermines the community engagement aspect of CAPS. This could especially include a significant increase in unsolved violent crimes as less resources would be used to solve and apprehend violent crimes, which may lead to a decrease in security in vulnerable communities.