Thoughts on Chicago Tonight Appearance

Eddie Aruza did something no other Chicago based journalist has done over the last two years – ask the FOP a follow up question!

Mike Shields, FOP PresidentMy appearance on Chicago Tonight last week with the Fraternal Order of the Police (FOP) President Mike Shields was illuminating to say the least.  I think you can say that Chicago Tonight did a huge public service to the citizens of Chicago by bringing up something that most of the press somehow manages to go 2 years without ever covering.  For those that did not get a chance to watch us live, I have embedded the video from Chicago Tonight below.  Also, you will find the exchange between Eddie Aruza and Mike Shields transcribed below.

Eddie Aruza

“Who determines how many police officer’s Chicago needs?  What do they look at to determine that number?”

Mike Shields

“City Council and the budget determine the amount and historically 13,500 has been the budgeted amount until last budget when 1,400 officers were removed from the budget in a single stroke of a pen.”

Eddie Aruza

“Have you ever been told why 13,500 have been the historical number needed in Chicago?”

Mike Shields

“It’s just been a number that the department feels is a safe number, an authorized number to safely protect the city of Chicago.  “

Eddie Aruza

“But is that based on any particular data or some sort of empirical data that says 13,500 officers is what Chicago needs?”

Mike Shields

“I think it is a combination of historical reports on manpower & its many past superintendents have chosen that number as their targeted number, which has always been kept up with.”

This exchange clearly illustrates that the Fraternal Order of Police cannot demonstrate the number they quote for the required number of officers 13,500 — is based on anything other than “it is in the budget”.

This revelation is shocking to me.  How did the Chicago media, including the crime reporters from Tribune and Sun Times, not press the FOP on how this number was determined?   There has to have been approximately 100 news stories with the FOP complaining about being understaffed, but nobody asked a follow-up question about how they came up with the number of officers they should have?  I guess what the stories should really have said is that the city is short the number of budgeted officers on the street, but nobody really knows if the number in the budget is valid.

The main problem with using the 13,500 number without any empirical data is that we might be wasting money on police manpower that we don’t need, or contrarily the police department might very well need more officers and we would never know about it.  This is the quintessential demonstration as to why decisions need to be based on data and not politics.