Sept. 01–As Chicago police battle surging violence, the union representing rank-and-file officers continues to urge officers not to work overtime shifts over Labor Day weekend.
The request from the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police comes as the city is reeling from 86 homicides in August, the deadliest month in 20 years.
The FOP has been calling for the boycott since late July, and the latest memo sent Wednesday to its 10,000 rank-and-file officers declared Friday through Monday as “FOP Unity Days” and urged officers to spend time with their families.
“In order to show unity and to protest the continued disrespect of Chicago Police Officers and the killings of Law Enforcement Officers across our Country, we are requesting FOP Members to refrain from volunteering to work … for the entire Labor Day Weekend,” the memo said.
The request concerns officers working overtime to shore up police response to what could be a bloody holiday weekend, not the officers regularly assigned to work those days.
In a brief telephone interview Wednesday, police Superintendent Eddie Johnson told the Tribune he was confident staffing levels for the Labor Day weekend would be adequate. He didn’t take issue with the union’s message but called on officers to stay united.
“I would never get upset with the FOP for encouraging officers to spend more time with their families because they should spend time with their families,” he said. “But having said that, I’ll tell you this, the best way for officers to support one another is to be out there for each other.”
If the department falls short on the number of officers needed to work overtime this weekend, Johnson said, he’d cancel days off for some officers, a common move by officials over holiday weekends during the summer.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Johnson didn’t know how many officers were scheduled to work overtime shifts during Labor Day weekend.
“We’ll have adequate resources out there over this holiday weekend to ensure everyone has … an enjoyable holiday,” he said. “So I’m not concerned about the resources we have out there. We’ll be OK.”
The Police Department has been under fire since November with the court-ordered release of a video showing Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times, killing him. The fallout has led to a U.S. Justice Department probe and a proposal just this week by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to replace the city’s much maligned police accountability system.
For months, FOP President Dean Angelo Sr. has decried the treatment officers have been enduring on the job. He said officers are worried that if they are as aggressive as they once were, they could end up in viral internet videos, fired or sued.
Chicago is approaching the holiday with homicides surging to 467, up from 311 a year earlier. All of last year, homicides totaled 473, just six more than Chicago has recorded this year with four months to go. And shooting incidents have risen by comparable numbers so far this year.
In recent years, the Police Department has spent tens of millions of dollars annually on overtime costs. The FOP instead favors the Police Department hiring more full-time officers.
As many as a few hundred officers each day work overtime on the department’s “violence reduction initiative,” assigned to designated crime “hot spots” primarily on the South and West sides. Additional officers are assigned to Navy Pier, McCormick Place, public housing, CTA train stations and parks.
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