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By Don Babwin
The Associated Press

CHICAGO - It's not that police officers here mind a little extra help. They just fear that the decision to begin using state troopers to help fight violent crime has more to do with politics.
"The concern is not for the people of Chicago," said Chicago Police Lt. Bob Weisskopf. "It has nothing to with real life, nothing to do with justice ... it's politics and politicians."
Last week - as new Chicago Police statistics showed homicides in the city rose 18 percent through July compared with 2007 - State Police Director Larry Trent said troopers had begun patrolling expressways near high crime areas in Chicago and nearby suburbs.
He also said they would help track the history of weapons used in crimes and gather intelligence on gangs. Chicago police officials have said most homicides are gang-related.
But police officers say they're skeptical because the move came just weeks after Gov. Rod Blagojevich surprised Mayor Richard M. Daley and Police Superintendent Jody Weis by suggesting publicly that state troopers and even the National Guard could be used to combat "out of control" violent crime in Chicago.
That prompted speculation that Blagojevich's motives were political. Daley has refused to support the governor's proposal for a Chicago casino to help fund a massive statewide construction program.
"This is more of a kick at the mayor by the governor," said Sgt. John Pallohusky, president of the Chicago Police Sergeants Association.
Blagojevich last week defended his offer.
"Yes, I know, Chicago is Chicago and it's a big city and Mayor Daley is the mayor there, but I'm the governor of all of Illinois," he said. "When communities are being dominated by gangbangers, I think we have a responsibility to be as helpful as we can."
Some officers, though, say the math doesn't add up.
Weisskopf, also president of the Chicago Police Lieutenants Association, said the only way state police could make a dent in the crime rate is if it deployed a few hundred troopers to the city and not the few dozen reported in one newspaper.
"You'd have to strip some section of the state bare to provide enough state police to make any sort of impact," he said. "And it's not like there are 200-300 sitting around a barracks somewhere waiting to get a call."
Trent was not available for comment Monday. State Police spokesman Lt. Luis Gutierrez said he did not know the number of troopers helping out in Chicago or have updated information on arrests or other activities by the troopers.
Chicago Police spokeswoman Monique Bond said Monday that she did not have that information, either. She said it would take more than a few weeks to determine the impact of the state police assistance.
Fraternal Order of Police President Mark Donahue said the issue is "part of the consternation between some of our politicians."
"If the idea was there is a need for more police, they'd hire more Chicago police officers," Donahue said.
Blagojevich last week also proposed installing highway cameras to catch speeders, which he said would generate $40 million to hire more state troopers and possibly more Chicago police officers.
Officers say it is no coincidence that the use of troopers comes at a time when the department's superintendent, who has been on the job less than seven months, has been under fire.
Last month, Weis was scolded by aldermen, who peppered him with statistics that show police are taking fewer guns off the street and making fewer traffic stops at a time when the homicide rate has jumped. Weis also has come under criticism from rank-and-file officers because he made changes soon after taking his post.
Weisskopf said the department has become an easy target because of stories of police misconduct and rumors that police can't, or aren't even trying, to control the streets they're supposed to protect.
"Do we feel like we're being picked on?" Weisskopf asked. "Of course we do."

Wire Service
 
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