UP, EPD strive to fill patrol officer vacancies

Scott Gordon

University Police officials said this week that they intend to hire three patrol officers for the Evanston Campus within the next two months — putting the branch of the department back to full-staff capacity.

Reorganizations, promotions and the death of an Chicago Campus officer in the department opened up the three vacancies within the last month, said Chief Bruce Lewis of University Police.

He said UP has “a number of interested candidates that we’re already processing” for patrol officer positions. UP might not have to spend extra money to get them ready because some candidates already have police academy training, he added.

A total of 25 officers and administrators are assigned to the Evanston Campus. Two to six of them patrol the area at any given time.

Most officers are working normal eight-hour shifts. Four days a week, at least two officers work a 10-hour “power shift” from evening to early morning, Lewis said. The department coordinates these shifts using analyses of recent crimes to determine “critical hours” when attacks and robberies are most likely to occur.

The presence of more contract security officers and the decrease in violent crime on campus this quarter helped the department avoid overworking its officers, Lewis said. In addition to the security officers who patrol the campus late at night, the department hires security officers to help UP at basketball games and other university events to allow more officers to take time off.

So far the officer shortage has not had a strong negative impact on the rest of the force, Lewis said. However, the increase in violent crime in the area, as experienced Fall Quarter, could place an “extraordinary burden” on the department.

“Right now, we are not experiencing that,” Lewis said. But he added, “We do need the people.”

Evanston Police Department also is short a few officers, city officials said.

Deputy Chief Michael Perry of Evanston Police Department said EPD currently employs about 75 patrol officers and is trying to fill five vacancies. Perry could not specify whether this was causing problems but said any time a department is understaffed it could end up straining its resources.

“We’ve been short for the last three years,” he said.

There currently are nine officers in EPD’s Field Training Officer Program who accompany experienced officers on patrol, Perry said.

Ald. Ann Rainey (8th) said the five vacancies are “as few vacancies as we’ve had in years — things are looking up.”

“I remember when they were 17 down in the late 1990s,” she said.

Rainey added that EPD is budgeted for a total of 160 officers.