How can the city improve public safety? Please address the role and performance of the Chicago Police Department and the role of neighborhood residents. What have you done to improve public safety in the city?

Public Safety

Despite the fact that we are experiencing the fewest murders than any year since 1965, and the lowest crime rate in decades, the measure of our success is whether a parent feels comfortable letting their child be outside. Until every parent in every community shares that same sense of security, we have more work to do. The Chicago Police Department has seen a dramatic change at all levels. At the top there is new leadership held accountable through CompStat, and among the ranks there are more than 1,100 new recruits adding new energy to the department for the first time in a decade. We have moved officers from behind desks to behind the wheel of a squad car – or the handlebars of a bike. At the same time, we are utilizing those resources more efficiently through intelligence-based policing. Operation Impact, for example, has added hundreds of officers on foot patrol in 20 areas that account for 3% of the city's population but 20% of its crime. It has led to a dramatic decline in violence in those areas where officers are more visible and able to interact with community members. CPD has also shifted its focus away from low-level and non-violent drug crimes and towards preventing and stopping violent crime. Our cannabis ticketing ordinance passed two years ago has resulted in a nearly 40% decrease in arrests for small amounts of cannabis possession for the first half of 2014 compared to 2012. The strategy is not just about locking more people in jail, which has significant long-term costs to the City and County. In fact, citywide arrests for all crimes have declined by 27% while overall crime has declined by 11% -- proving it is possible to reduce crime while arresting fewer people and fostering better cooperation with the communities we serve. Developing higher levels of trust between communities and police has been a major priority. CPD created and implemented training for police officers to teach fairness and respect – also called "procedural justice." More than 9,500 Chicago police personnel have completed this training. When police misconduct does occur, we are respond swiftly and fairly and providing a new level of transparency about the process. In a reversal of past practice, the City recently announced that it will make internal investigation files into alleged police misconduct open to public scrutiny. Our efforts go beyond the work of the Chicago Police Department. Chicago's holistic, public health approach to violence reduction includes investments in prevention and intervention programs to help treat the root causes of violence, including poverty, trauma and disparities in education and workforce skills. Intervention programs, which are designed to reach youth at higher risk of violence, include One Summer Chicago Plus, a summer jobs program specifically designed for justice-involved youth. Participants in the program were 43% less likely to be arrested for a crime than their peers – results that last for more than a year after the program ended, according to research published in Science Magazine.

Violent crime is a staggering problem throughout the entire city. By the numbers, Chicago is sadly considered the new murder capital of the nation, having surpassed New York, a city nearly triple our population. Though our murder rate has declined in the past two years, the number of murders and amount of nonlethal gun violence remains at an intolerable level. Gang warfare and violence continue unabated, claiming the lives of innocent men, women and, tragically, even infants and children. The situation led one alderman to issue a plea to the gangs to shoot only each other and leave the innocents alone—we have not heard such pleas since the Capone-era days of gang warfare. We need to take a multi-faceted approach that addresses the root causes of violence by addressing the employment needs in our neighborhoods. As a recent study by the University of Chicago Crime Lab demonstrated, a public summer jobs program for high school students from disadvantaged neighborhoods in Chicago reduced violent crime arrests by 43 percent over a 16-month period. Sadly, that same report found youth employment in the summer months is near a 60-year low. There must also be a long-term and on-going commitment to Community Policing. True community policing remains a proven and effective way to both solve crimes and actually to prevent it. It constitutes a genuine partnership with a neighborhood based on trust built over time between long-term beat officers and neighborhoods they serve. It takes training and commitment. Here in Chicago we have tried many approaches and run through numerous police chiefs without solving major problems—and in some cases exacerbating them. Doesn't today's level of violence suggest that we need a new approach to policing? I know community policing works, because I have witnessed firsthand the difference it has made in my own neighborhood of Little Village. There, the community group I founded, "Enlace Chicago," has partnered with the Chicago Police Department and North Lawndale Employment Network to reduce youth violence and to improve community-police relations. As Mayor, I will also keep the promise that Rahm Emanuel broke by putting 1,000 additional police officers on the streets, but I would make sure these new officers are adequately trained to truly serve and protect. The existing police force is not only insufficiently oriented, but also insufficiently staffed to effect true community policing. Significant overtime currently is unavoidable, which reduces the effectiveness of current officers. With the 265 current patrol vacancies and the 580 vacancies in Sergeants, Lieutenants, and Detectives reported by the Police Superintendent, the Department will remain understaffed for the foreseeable future unless we act to correct this problem.

As a new candidate I have to access the problem and make a decision after reviewing the issue.

To immediately reduce the number of violent crimes, I would declare a State of Emergency. I would institute a series of specific actions to quickly alleviate the root causes of increased crime and violence, and thereby reduce the unacceptable level of danger. Pursuant to that meaningful declaration, as Mayor I would direct the Superintendent of Police to order the suspension of all Police Officer vacations and furlough days: Conduct high visibility Outdoor Roll Calls in and around high crime areas: Conduct Outdoor Police Academy Recruit Training sessions in and around high crime areas: Stop all police Parking Ticket writing activities: Limit Police Traffic Court appearances to those involving personal injury, auto damage, DUI, drugs or weapons: Station police cars near parks, schools and libraries until they are dispatched to respond to calls, upon completion of that call, they will return to their assigned spot; Replace the vast majority of sworn officers presently assigned to office and desk duty with civilians and reassign those officers to street beat patrol. Police officers will be outfitted with Body Cams which will be synchronized with Dashboard cams. To reduce police overtime, Police Department clerks will review footage and document police encounters and arrests. The involved officer(s) will sign off on the clerk generated police reports.

Improving public safety will take a holistic approach to policing. This means making certain our first responders have the resources they need to do their jobs. It also means building up our communities and neighborhoods to get to the root causes of crime. Strong neighborhoods, with good jobs for residents, good schools and programs for our youth naturally create a safe environment. Funding for after school programs and summer programs ($1 million each) is grossly insufficient. Increasing afterschool to $5 million will provide after school programs to another 10,000 youth. Funding summer programs to $15 million will provide programs to another 15,000. This should be a priority. We need to increase beat cops and we can do that if we reallocate the $100 million a year we have been spending on overtime. If we reduce that to $50 million, that leaves money to hire more beat cops for high crime areas and lowers our budget deficit. This is a small step to getting the number of officers up so that we are making our streets safe. The federal government (Housing and Urban Development) has moved to stop funding supportive services to support long-term housing. This year the federal government cut $3.3 million to agencies in Chicago. The City Budget does replace $500,000 leaving a gap of $2.8 million. Groups have suggested using part of the $5 million being given to the Rainy Day Fund be switched to fill the gap in supportive services and after school programs. Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart called Cook County Jail the "largest mental health care provider" in the state. Our most vulnerable citizens should not be treated in this manner. Shuttering half of our community mental health clinics has led to a rise in petty crime and added to our already overburdened prison population. I support reopening these clinics to make certain people get the care they deserve.