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Off-duty officers filling gap on overtime pay at O'Hare, Midway

By Fran Spielman and Frank Main
The Chicago Sun-Times

CHICAGO - More than a third of the Chicago Police positions at the city's two major airports are vacant, but officials say cops are helping to fill the gap by working overtime.
Ald. Isaac Carothers (29th), chairman of the City Council's Police Committee, said there are a combined 77 vacancies at O'Hare and Midway airports.
Of O'Hare's 177 budgeted positions, 66 are vacant, officials said. And at Midway, 11 of the 57 budgeted positions are vacant.
The figures were released during council hearings Monday on Mayor Daley's $2.5 billion plan to privatize Midway.
Police sources said most of the vacant positions are regularly filled with off-duty officers getting overtime pay. They said public safety is not being compromised because of the vacancies. But they wouldn't say how many of the positions are being filled with off-duty cops.
Chief Financial Officer Paul Volpe did not quarrel with Carothers' vacancy figures. He suggested that police officers were transferred out of the airports to fill shortages in Chicago neighborhoods. The salaries of airport police are paid for with airport revenues. Neighborhood officers are paid for through the city's financially strapped corporate fund.
"They're choosing to have the vacancies at the airports because they have needs inside the neighborhoods. The problem is, we don't have the money to pay for the needs inside the neighborhoods -- not this year," Volpe said.
Carothers said: "I've got to believe they are moving resources out because they can't hire police on the other side to put them in the neighborhoods. And there's a push to put police on the street. So one of the places they've lost [positions] is at the airport. "
Carothers noted that the police manpower shortage is only going to get worse.
Three thousand vacant positions are expected to be eliminated in Daley's proposed 2009 budget, including 329 sworn police officers and 424 police civilians. The list of 1,080 city employees targeted for layoffs includes 133 police civilians. The cuts will come despite Daley's promise to hire 75 additional police officers in 2008.

Wire Service
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