Hundreds of cops paid to sit at home as crime rises - FOX 32 News Chicago

Hundreds of cops paid to sit at home as crime rises

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Mayor Rahm Emanuel says that one way to reduce crime is to make sure cops are out on the streets instead of shuffling papers at desk jobs.

But a FOX Chicago investigation suggests that while trying to get officers out of those desk jobs, hundreds of Chicago police officers have been left sitting at home, getting paid to do nothing.

The officers we're talking about admit they're not capable of running down a drug dealer, or tackling a murder suspect, but for years they've contributed valuable services to the department, until this year, when they sat at home at the homicide rate shot up.

Homicides have jumped 24 percent in Chicago this year. More than 400 so far. And while the murders were climbing, these two Chicago police officers, each earning $83,000 a year, sat at home, more than willing to go to work.

"I worked midnights and I still enjoyed it," said police officer Mike Kasper.

"I wanted to finish out my career, working. I did not want to go home, it was kind of like, it just didn't feel right," said police officer Alice Debonnett.

Debonnett and Kasper are among more than 300 Chicago police officers who were told this year that they couldn't keep their jobs, because of their health. Both admit they've got medical issues that keep them from working the streets.

"I had cancer, which resulted in me going on dialysis," Debonnett said.

"Regretfully, I became diabetic, which took me off the street," Kasper said.

But over the years, both had successfully transitioned to what are called "light duty" desk jobs. Kasper's last assignment was handling 311 calls on the West Side. Debonnett's last job was with Internal Affairs at police headquarters.

In January, however, Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy changed the rules, ordering that anyone working a "light duty" desk job still had to be physically capable of making an arrest. Officers who couldn't were put on medical leave, meaning they go home and collect full pay for as long as they've got sick time accrued, up to a year.

Both say it seems ironic to be sitting at home and willing to go to work.

"Yes, because I figured somebody had to do that job. That I was doing. And possibly it could be somebody who was a full duty person. And that would be a waste. They could be working the street," Debonnett said.

"I find it absolutely absurd. Yep, and I'm not the only officer. There are many other officers who are in my same position that would love to be back at work," Kasper said.

Bill Dougherty, vice-president of the Fraternal Order of Police, says the union has filed a grievance on behalf of the officers, over a practice that he says, makes no sense.

"These officers want to work. They are willing to work. They are all able to work," said Dougherty.

"I don't know why anybody running any business today would rather pay somebody to be home when there's a job sitting there. Especially when it's been the same job that these officers have been doing for years," he said.

McCarthy declined to defend the new policy on camera, but his spokesperson issued a statement, saying, "We continue to identify ways to ensure sworn personnel are being used as intended-protecting the residents of our city....the Department has taken action to transition away from light duty positions, which will ultimately result in hiring new, full duty officers to patrol our streets."

But Kasper says that somebody has to do the job he was doing and it's likely to be someone with less experience who never worked the streets.

"To take a limited duty officer that's been doing it for years, and now the position is still there but you take the officer and put him on the medical pending disability, that makes no sense whatsoever," Kasper said.

Kasper mentions disability. When these officers use up all of their medical leave at home, they'll go on disability, collecting 50 percent of their pay through the police pension board.

And this is happening at a time when the city already has a whopping pension crisis.

Dougherty says there could be between 100 and 300 officers applying for disability benefits next February, that is, unless they're able to win their jobs back through arbitration.

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