CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel will deliver his new, more comprehensive public safety plan for the nation’s third-largest city on Thursday, drawing a spotlight on his leadership amid a troubling spike in street violence and an ongoing Department of Justice investigation of his police department.
The agenda is expected to include more support and mentorship of youth, a key theme he’s expected to address in the evening speech at a community college campus.
“You give the kids of the city of Chicago a positive alternative with a caring adult, they’ll go the positive route,” Emanuel told reporters Wednesday. “The gangs are out there trying to be both role models, mentors and a family for these kids.”
In recent days, Emanuel’s administration has announced plans to add nearly 1,000 new police officers, an expansion of the use of body cameras and mandatory de-escalation training for all officers.
Emanuel, in his second term as mayor, has been trying to rebuild trust in his leadership, particularly after the 2014 death of Laquan McDonald, a black teenager shot 16 times by a white police officer. The officer was charged with murder, but only after a judge ordered the public release of the graphic squad car video last year. Circulation of the video prompted frequent protests, allegations of a cover-up and repeated calls for Emanuel to step down.
The Justice Department has since launched a systemic probe of department practices.
In the interim, Emanuel has tried to make his own changes, ousting his police chief, abolishing the agency that handles police investigations and pitching a new system for reviewing police misconduct and department audits. The former White House chief of staff said Wednesday that the approach to crime in the city has to be comprehensive.
Chicago has seen a dramatic rise in the number of shootings and homicides this year. In August alone, there were 90 homicides, marking the first time in two decades there have been that many in a single month. Overall, the city has recorded more than 500 homicides this year — higher than all of 2015 — and is on pace to climb past the 600-homicide mark for the first time since 2003.
Emanuel said the violence spike was new, noting the number of homicides in 2014 was among the lowest on record. That year closed with roughly 400 murders.
“What happened this year is new,” Emanuel said Wednesday, the day Chicago police announced the additional jobs. “So we’re meeting it with a new response, which is more police, more technology, greater investment in mentoring, our summer jobs and our afterschool.”
Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said he asked for additional officers and Emanuel “delivered.” The plan, which will start in January 2017, is to add 516 new officers, 92 field-training officers, 200 detectives, 112 sergeants and 50 lieutenants. The changes will increase the number of sworn officers from about 12,500 to about 13,500.
What’s missing is how the cash-strapped city will fund the officers. Emanuel declined to detail where the money will come from. Already his tenure has seen a property tax hike and the council approved new water and sewer tax increases earlier this month.
“We will have the resources in the budget to pay for this,” Emanuel said.
Activists who’ve called for additional community resources and leadership changes criticized the plan to add so many officers.
“The causes of crime and intra-communal violence exist because of the conditions of poverty that Rahm Emanuel has exacerbated for Chicago,” Black Lives Matter Chicago said in a statement. “What more policing will accomplish is more violence, more lock ups and more trauma for our already suffering communities.”
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