Hi-Tech Cop Moves Up

I'm not expecting a box of candy or anything. Or even a thank you note. It's just coincidence, of course, that a month after I profiled Ron Huberman the ex-cop behind many of Chicago's high-tech crime fighting efforts he gets appointed as Mayor Richard Daley's new chief of staff.FF_154_crime2_f.jpgHuberman was brought in last Wednesday, "the same day that a central figure in a City Hall contracting scam was sentenced in federal court," the Chicago Tribune reports. "Huberman said that 'first and foremost' among Daley's marching orders is to 'help restore taxpayers' confidence in the integrity of city government.'"Later Wednesday, Daley introduced Huberman to more than three dozen city department heads at a meeting where, to "stunned silence," the mayor "read them the riot act," according to a city official who was present.Daley told them that Huberman "is going to look at your department and your performance; if you have a problem with that, you are out,'" the official recounted.In his previous jobs in the police and emergency management departments, Huberman also looked for ways to shove the least productive through the door. CLEAR, Chicago's massive police database project, started out as a tool for fighting crime. Huberman wanted to turn it into pink-slip machine, according to Northwestern University professor Susan Hartnett, a longtime CPD watcher. By tracking cops' arrests and their hours, Huberman hoped to "get rid" of the Chicago police's "bottom third" -- the officers for whom "there's nothing you can do," she observes.Huberman put it to me more judiciously, saying, "We want to save officers -- ID them when they're falling off the right course early in their career."CLEAR's personnel suite won't be done for months, maybe years. The system may not even get built at all, without Huberman actively promoting it.If there's a knock on Huberman, it's that when he's pushing his projects, he gets too caught up in the hype. "He sometimes sort of believes the future is the present," one colleague says.Anyway, here's a bit more about Huberman -- parts of last month's Wired story that didn't make it into the final draft:

Huberman doesn't want to be here, peering in on perps from 15,000 feet away, staring at the shimmering video wall and the PC monitor banks. "Too clinical," Huberman says. He'd rather be out in the streets, where he spent four years as a beat cop and a gang specialist in Rogers Park. Huberman fell in love with police work, "the pleasure of locking up the bad guy the justice of it all," from "day one" at the academy. (The fact that his Israeli-immigrant parents were mugged when he was six years old wasn't that much of an inspiration, he insists.)On the beat, he was known as an eager over-achiever. When he discovered a double homicide, he did more than the frontline cop's duty to fill out the initial paperwork, and make the customary rounds; Huberman found the lead suspect's mom, and persuaded her to convince her son to turn himself in.Even now, working seven-day weeks as the head of the city's Office of Emergency Management, Huberman still likes to go out on patrol, just for fun, once a month, with his old partner, Sgt. Greg Hoffman an 11-year veteran who keeps a revolver on his hip and a can of chili in his desk drawer...Ron Huberman has long been a believer in the transformative power of security, in "using the police department not just for law enforcement, but to promote social change," as University of Chicago professor Pastora Cafferty puts it. Back when he was a beat cop, Huberman studied under her, getting dual masters degrees in social work and management, while riding a squad car at night.During a stint with a Washington law enforcement think tank in the late 90's, Huberman went home to his native Israel, and helped train West Bank cops. "For there to be peace, Palestinians had to learn to police themselves," he says.For peace to break out on Chicago's streets, law-abiding citizens had to be given a sense that the cops had their backs even when there wasn't a Crown Vic on the corner. That meant developing a system, like CLEAR, that could help the police figure out who the real crooks were. That meant putting silent, bulletproof sentries with flashing cobalt lights up on telephone poles, to let the bad guys know they weren't welcome any more. "This is about restoring a sense of order, about taking streets from the gangbangers," Huberman says.
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