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Mayor Emanuel To Give 'Major' Public Safety Speech

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Thursday evening will deliver what he called a major public-safety speech that will outline a “comprehensive” solution to the city’s violence.

Emanuel said he even delayed the speech — it had been scheduled for earlier in the week — to “get it right.”

Now, invited guests are set to be seated in a Malcolm X College gymnasium by 6 p.m. Thursday to hear Emanuel’s remarks.

Emanuel and other city officials have already announced that the police department will get 970 new sworn positions — including patrol officers, detectives, sergeants and others — to take on the city’s worst gun violence since the 1990s.

It is not clear how the city will pay for the new cops. Emanuel said Wednesday that further details would be released in “black and white” during the city budget process a few weeks from now.

“We’re going to find the resources,” Emanuel said. “But I will also then say this: We, as a city, are paying for this today in lost lives.”

The mayor said he will not be raising taxes to pay for the new officers, but some aldermen still seem wary.

The Emanuel administration has already increased property taxes to pay for police and fire pensions, added a new $9.50 garbage collection fee, and increased a cell-phone tax to cover laborers’ pensions.

Just last week, the City Council voted for an Emanuel plan to increase water and sewer bills by 29.5 percent for municipal pensions.

Emanuel’s speech is also expected to touch on some non-policing approaches to crime, including job creation and an expansion of mentoring opportunities.

“The Vice Lords are ready to be a mentor. Is Chicago ready to be a mentor? The Gangster Disciples are ready to be a role model. Is Chicago ready to be a role model?” Emanuel said. “I do know this: You give the kids of the city of Chicago a positive alternative with a caring adult, they’ll go the positive route.”

Leaked details about Emanuel’s speech have not impressed some community critics.

“He has no moral authority since Laquan McDonald,” said Rev. Ira Acree, pastor of Greater St. John Bible Church in the city’s Austin neighborhood, referring to the black teenager shot by a police officer — an event captured on a dashboard-camera video the city fought to keep secret until a judge compelled its release last November.

Acree also pointed to sky-high unemployment rates for young African Americans and called for massive investment in jobs. “You can’t police your way out of this violence,” he said.

Policing, nevertheless, is expected to remain center stage as Emanuel puts the finishing touches on his speech.

A warm-up took place Wednesday at CPD headquarters, where Police Supt. Eddie Johnson announced the 970 new police positions to a room packed with hundreds of uniformed officers and dozens of journalists

The positions, Johnson said, will include 200 detectives, 112 sergeants, 92 field-training officers and 50 lieutenants. The extra hiring will begin in 2017, span two years and, he vowed, come on top of filling vacancies for promotions and retirements.

If the city makes good on these promises, the department could have more than 13,500 sworn officers by the end of 2018, the most since 2009.

 

Johnson said the hiring will also reduce police overtime, which has cost hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years and, cops say, exhausted some of them.

Johnson said the staffing hike stems from a meeting he had with Emanuel months ago. “He asked me, ‘If you were building CPD from scratch and the resources were unlimited, what would the department look like?’ ” Johnson said.

“We came back and built our plan and — let me tell you, people — the mayor delivered for us,” Johnson told his fellow cops.

The superintendent said there had been no option to “pull officers from the safer communities into the more violent ones.”

“Gang members [would] figure that out and shift their operations,” Johnson said. “We can’t rob Peter to pay Paul when it comes to the safety of our city.”

Chip Mitchell and Lauren Chooljian are WBEZ reporters. Follow them @ChipMitchell1 and @LaurenChooljian.

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