Civic Federation demands more transparency in Chicago Police Department spending

Mayor Lori Lightfoot pushed back hard after the Civic Federation on Wednesday used a public hearing on her proposed $16.4 billion budget to demand that the city "dramatically increase transparency around" police spending.

Civic Federation President Laurence Msall said it is "very difficult to track how much is going into policing," how much is tied to complying with a federal consent decree and where exactly the nearly $100 million increase in the Chicago Police Department’s $1.87 billion budget is going.

"There’s a national challenge in terms of maintaining your police department and your police force. And this budget just talks about this year’s police numbers and appropriations. It doesn’t compare it to what we had last year. And you have to go into about three different city departments to pull that type of information together," Msall said.

The consent decree, which outlines reform steps the police department must take, is the "best road map to modernizing the police force, building legitimacy" and repairing trust between citizens and police shattered by the court-ordered release of the Laquan McDonald shooting video, Msall said.

But the city has "yet to demonstrate that it has a plan to fundamentally reshape the way the city approaches policing," the Civic Federation’s lengthy budget analysis states.

Chicago Police Supt. David Brown told alderpersons last week he expects to reach "80% compliance" with the consent decree in the independent monitor’s next report — up from just 11% in early 2020.

But those percentages do nothing to "improve the public’s understanding of what the city is doing to achieve outcomes" and how those reforms are "impacting personnel levels and expenditures," according to the Civic Federation’s analysis.


"Improved communications should articulate steps the City is taking to allocate personnel to comply with consent decree requirements (such as required supervisor ratios and unity of command/span of control), prioritize community policing citywide, increase the use of civilian positions and ensure that resources are used effectively and efficiently," the budget analysis states.

Last year, the University of Chicago Crime Lab called for reassigning veteran and rookie officers immediately, based on a formula it created that includes calls for service, total violent crime in an area, population size and attrition of retiring officers.

Lightfoot and Brown chose a slower approach, saying high-crime districts would get more manpower only as rookies graduate from the academy and complete their 18-month probation. It would take about two years to get South and West Side police districts — where shootings and drug-dealing are worst — the staffing they need.

Msall on Wednesday demanded that the police department "publish a staffing allocation study" — including "data metrics used" — to help the public understand how "staffing and deployment decisions" are made.

"The police superintendent in a budget hearing last week indicated the police department has conducted a study on how officers should be allocated given existing resources, but has not conducted any studies regarding the number of officers that each police district should have," Msall said Wednesday.

"There’s just a lack of transparency and a lack of data on how the police department allocates staff, whether we have adequate staff and what we need to do to make sure we have adequate staff in the future. … We urge the city to conduct and publish an independent workforce allocation study of the police department."

Lightfoot insisted there is "no lack of transparency around" her budget, "particularly when it comes to public safety."

Public safety "comes in many different forms," she said Wednesday, and police spending is "a big chunk of it." But the city also has "invested heavily in things like street outreach, mental health supports, economic supports" and youth programs.

"It’s not just one thing that is gonna move the needle. … We’ve got to use both hard power to immediately hold violent, dangerous people accountable. But we’ve also got to have soft power," Lightfoot said.

For decades, Chicago relied on a "law enforcement first and only" strategy that "failed miserably" by leading to "mass incarceration" without making neighborhoods safer, the mayor said.

"What it also led to is a community not viewing the police department as a force for good. It delegitimized them," she said.

"If we really want to bring lasting peace to neighborhoods all over our city, particularly those that have been plagued by violence for far too long, we can’t just arrest our way out of the problem. We’ve got to invest our way out of the problem. And that’s precisely what we are doing."