Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Great Idea Gone Stupid

When I first heard Mayor Emanuel call for closing the 19th District police station -- my local station as well as Emanuel's -- I thought it was a wise move.* Most if not all of the surrounding districts are operating in large, new stations with excess capacity. I assumed the plan was to reassign the beats in the 19th District to whichever district is closest and redistribute personnel accordingly. After all, the northern reaches of the 19th District are pretty close to the new 20th District station, the eastern end is near the new 23rd District station, etc. Chicago's police districts have not been redrawn in many years, and this would be a logical consolidation.

Then the specific plan came out. Instead of implementing the station closing intelligently as outlined above, the plan is to move the entire 19th District's operations into the 23rd District complex. This will create a crowded-to-overcrowded environment at the 23rd District station while wasting all that unused capacity in the other new stations. It will also waste fuel (as officers drive to the far ends of the 19th District from the 23rd) and probably lengthen response times.

If the department had considered this in long-range planning, they could have built the 23rd District station a mile further west to facilitate this consolidation. I hope this is only a temporary fix until the entire city's police districts are redrawn, an undertaking that is long overdue. Wards are redrawn every decade to reflect changes in demographics. It makes sense to redraw police districts as well.

* On a tangent, I think Emanuel's primary motivation for closing the 19th District station is political (no surprise there) -- he figures that eliminating his own police station will make it easier to get the aldermen in the other two districts losing their stations to acquiesce.

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