By Paul Vallas
September 23, 2022
Mayor Lightfoot and Police Superintendent Brown are trying desperately to create the perception that they are making progress on crime. They cite the latest data that shows murders and shootings down from last year.
But the people don’t feel safe. And despite the slight drop this year, murders and shootings are up 33% and 35% respectively since 2019 when the mayor took office. Overall, violent crime is up 37% this year. Wirepoints.org reports that the number of school-age youth who have been murdered since COVID appeared is now at least 196.
The actual number of violent crimes is likely greatly underreported as over half of all “High Priority” 911 calls do not have a police car available. Last June, Wirepoints reported Chicago Police Department (CPD) data showed no police cars available for half of the high-priority police dispatcher calls last year. That’s 406,829 calls including 14,955 calls for assaults and 17,828 batteries in progress.
With the unprecedented number of high-priority 911 calls not being responded to and a 70% reduction in arrests since 2019.
It is clear to the people of Chicago—especially those who are desperate and dial 911 and are ignored — that the Chicago Police Department is simply not equipped to deal with the crisis. This is a management failure. And the only way to reverse the worsening crime pandemic is to provide the CPD with the leadership and support it needs to be proactive.
Lightfoot disparages critics who question CPD’s capacity to address the crime pandemic and dare to advocate for providing CPD with leadership, strategy and capacity to be proactive about getting and keeping dangerous criminals off the street. She smears her critics by claiming they want a return to “Burge-style” police abuse practices.
This cheap verbal trick is a gross and offensive generalization that could only come from someone who has never done the job and has no respect for those who do and have done so honorably and with distinction. She has little respect for Chicago Police, and they have little respect for her. The people of Chicago should ask themselves why.
What would a proactive policing approach look like?
• The replacement of the incompetent and reactive Brown and his First Deputy with new CPD leadership who understand that to have effective policing you must have beat integrity and familiarity and a rank and file who feel supported when they make arrests.
• Promoting proven leaders into the exempt ranks with the experience, training and record that have the confidence and respect of the rank and file, while bringing a permanent end to promotions and special privileges for those who have not earned them.
• Restoration of community policing in which priority is given to maintaining Beat Integrity in which every local police beat is covered and has officers who are familiar with and known to the community.
• A humane and predictable work schedule that does not arbitrarily cancel days off for weeks on end and extends work days without warning assures that officers can rest and recover from the rigors of the job.
• Inviting Officers to return to CPD with no less seniority and the removal of barriers preventing highly qualified and experienced Officers from transferring from other police departments.
• Recruiting retired police officers with investigatory experience to help detectives close cases and to staff a legitimate program that will protect witnesses and victims.
• A real public transit police unit that dispenses with the $100 million private unarmed security and has CPD officers walking all platforms and undercover officers riding trains. The amount of money paid to private firms would finance almost well over 600 CPD officers.
• A mayor standing up for Police Officers by denouncing cop-haters and supporting officers to constitutionally effectuate arrests for lesser crimes like theft, burglary, assault, and criminal property damage that too often are the gateway to much more serious crimes.
Nothing in this proactive policing approach is disallowed under the Consent Decree. A Decree that the Mayor and Brown have failed to comply with on some of the most essential items that benefit officers. These items include officer training, supervision (ratio of sergeants to officers), and officer health and wellness. Supporting the rank and file to protect the public proactively and constitutionally is what is needed. It all starts with real leadership — at 35th and Michigan and on the Fifth Floor of City Hall.
Meanwhile, the city can be equally proactive in taking steps to bypass Kim Foxx’s well-established failure to prosecute cases to the fullest extent of the law and the pretrial release program that she and the judges endorse has resulted in impunity for criminals and placed victims at risk. The city should take steps to fill the void left by Foxx’s dereliction of duty to protect our citizens and streets” while intensifying public pressure on both her and the judges.
This could be done by doing the following:
1.) Working with the US Attorney to encourage and support their efforts to bring cases under the much tougher Federal jurisdiction is a no-brainer, providing whatever cooperation, when needed. The mayor, as an ex-fed prosecutor, knows full well these cases result in much tougher charges and longer sentences and should have been in dialogue with the US Attorney since taking office. Her inclination to overlook them as an avenue of alternative means of prosecution seems deliberate and makes her occasional criticism of negligence and judges ring hollow
2.) Make active use of the CPD “override” authority and go straight to the judges to secure initial felony charges when Kim Foxx fails to act. The resulting case still must be prosecuted by Foxx’s office, which will likely dismiss the override charges at the first court date, as we have seen a few times in the news recently. However, the ensuing publicity will cast missing sunshine exactly where it belongs and would only improve transparency into Foxx’s reluctance to prosecute even the most outrageous cases.
3.) The City can enact its own ordinances regulating public safety that provide for prison time, which under general Home Rule principles can be as long as 364 days and may include fines and terms of probation. Home Rule means the State Code and State’s Attorney are NOT the only sources of authority for protecting public safety. City Public Safety Ordinance violations can be prosecuted by the City’s Department of Law under the authority of the Corporation Counsel — if a Mayor and Corporation Counsel make it a priority. The City of Chicago can enact ordinance violations for threatening police, intimidating witnesses, weapons violations, possession of a stolen vehicle, robbery, burglary, and retail theft for which Foxx will not charge anyone unless the items stolen were over $1,000 value.
4.) Enact a City Nuisance Ordinance, empowering police to make arrests, impound vehicles, confiscate personal property and impose heavy fines on individuals and organizations found guilty of violating the public way, damaging public and private property, and harassing and threatening city residents. Allowing rioters, looters, flash mobs and others inciting civil unrest rarely get arrested and, even when rarely charged, that they don’t spend even a night in jail is no deterrent. It emboldens them. So, if Foxx will not hold them criminally accountable, then City Hall can at least hold them financially accountable.
5.) Creating a Case Review Unit (CRU) within the Chicago Police Department to review County prosecutors and judges’ declinations and dismissals of weapons, violent crime and conspiracy cases is imperative for full transparency and accountability. It is critical that all these entities be held accountable when it comes to the treatment of violent criminals. There can be no real accountability without transparency.
What is required is a comprehensive review of the City’s legislative authority on matters of public safety, to craft a series of ordinances that would, without preempting state law, give CPD and City residents the benefit of tools to take habitual violent criminals off the streets.
The current State’ Attorney is failing in her oath not to pursue to the fullest extent allowed by existing statutes. Clearly, Foxx’s political agenda is more important to her than the victims of the violent criminals she refuses to prosecute or insists on treating with kid gloves.
I am not running for prosecutor. But I am campaigning for Mayor of Chicago. The city I love is hurting and bleeding. We can no longer ignore bad management.
We must address crime, the criminal courts, murky prosecution decisions, mismanagement of the Chicago Police Department and overall mismanagement from the 5th Floor of City Hall. The primary responsibility of our government is to protect its people, their life, liberty and property. For the past 3 1/2 years, those basic human rights have been denied by sheer incompetence. That can change, and with your help, we can change it together.
Paul Vallas, born in Roseland and candidate for mayor of Chicago, is the former city budget director and CEO of the Chicago Public Schools.