Emanuel and his administration must repair community trust in his leadership and in police
The Chicago mayor was to deliver a major speech Thursday evening
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Thursday delivered what was one of the most important speeches of his second term.
It addressed the city’s issues with policing, as well as its growing epidemic of violence. In 2016, Chicago’s homicide rate skyrocketed and is on pace to top 700, up from 480 over last year.
Emanuel and his administration must repair the community’s trust in his leadership and police in the wake of multiple scandals and shootings involving officers.
The release of police dash-cam video in the 2014 shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald as he walked away from Chicago police officers set off large protests late last year and has been followed by several similar high-profile cases involving police overreach.
The superintendent of police at the time of the McDonald shooting, Garry McCarthy, was fired by Emanuel earlier this year and the Independent Police Review Authority, the agency charged with investigating police-involved shootings, is being completely overhauled.
The officer charged with murder in the McDonald shooting, Jason Van Dyke, is set to stand trial later this year.
A call for community action?
Civic leaders who met with Emanuel in advance of the speech tell CNN that they spoke to the mayor about the importance of parenting and encouraging absentee fathers to play a bigger role in trying to reduce violence.
But Shari Runner, president of the Chicago Urban League, is strongly against the notion that parents or “absentee fathers” should be held responsible for the city’s violence problem.
Runner, who wouldn’t confirm if she discussed topics with Emanuel in advance of his speech, says broken families in communities affected by years of violence should be part of a larger discussion that includes decades-old government policies.
“I think that everybody knows that mass incarceration – which has happened over the last 30 years – started with the war on drugs,” she said. “(It) made sure that a lot of African-American fathers are absent. They’re not there, they end up with records, which means they can’t be employed after they get out. They have to then go back to doing the same things that they were doing before and so that illegal economy has to go away.”
Reverend Ira Acree is pastor of Greater St. John Bible Church in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood, one of the most violent sections of the city’s west side.
Like Runner, Acree also believes any attempt to link African-American fathers to the spike in violence would be a “cop-out” by the mayor.
“Everybody knows there has been a collaborative failure from multiple places in the city. It shouldn’t only be on the police department, or on the fathers or families,” Acree said. “The black family has been fractured for a long time, and economically we’ve been almost decimated.”
A clear vision
Acree believes that Emanuel, as “CEO” of Chicago, needs to present a clear vision of the city moving forward and not play the blame game.
Runner of the Urban League also wants to see the mayor lay out a convincing, clear plan for the nation’s third-largest city.
“I would like to see a comprehensive strategy that takes account of the things that are happening immediately so that we are working on making sure the shootings stop,” she said. “Guns are flooding our community, drugs have flooded our communities forever. We have to stop that right away.
“But then we also have to think about how do we in the long term stop this from continuing to happen? What are the policies that need to go in place to make sure investment goes into those communities as well as it does everywhere else in the city of Chicago?”
Runner says the city has to do more to encourage companies to move into impoverished neighborhoods while training an able workforce for entry-level positions. Illinois has one of the highest African-American unemployment rates in the country.
A 2015 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics put the unemployment rate for blacks or African-Americans in Illinois at 12.2%. Only Iowa and Minnesota were higher, at 14.8% and 14.1%, respectively.
“There are jobs that are going unfilled in the city of Chicago right now,” Runner said. “We have, I think, 20,000 advanced manufacturing jobs that are not filled. But people can get trained to do that work, and we have to take a broader view.
“Our corporate citizens are going to have to take a different approach to bringing in entry-level people. That training is going to look different than it did 20 years ago.”
In a lead-up to Emanuel’s speech, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson held a press conference Wednesday to announce the city will hire almost 1,000 new sworn members of law enforcement, including 500 police officers and 200 detectives to help raise the number of solved murders and shootings.
The new hiring will take place over the next two years. “I’m confident that these added resources will make us better and give us the capacity we need to address our crime patterns across the city,” Johnson said Wednesday.
New Tasers and body cameras are also being given to officers throughout the department, and new training for veteran officers has already started incorporating new use-of-force policies, he said.
Johnson is a 28-year veteran of the force who himself grew up in a Chicago public housing project. He was hand-picked by Emanuel earlier this year to lead an initiative to rebuild trust between police and the community while restoring morale in the ranks.
He recently told CNN that while he’s very disturbed at the amount of violence the city has experienced, he’s optimistic things will turn around.
Changing the culture and climate within the police department will be crucial not only to winning back the public trust but also at finally getting control of a spiraling violence problem, says Matt McGill, a talk show host at Chicago radio station WVON.
“The history of the Chicago police department and the African-American community has been one of a racist tone, so it’s not news. And I think to a large degree the police department doesn’t know how to change, because it’s so ingrained in that department that’s it’s going to take years,” McGill said.
“It’s going to take hiring more cops, different cops, cops that were born in different decades with a different mindset hopefully than the generation that preceded them.”
CNN’s Brad Parks and Ryan Young contributed to this story.