CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced a $36 million mentoring initiative for thousands of youths from high-crime neighborhoods and asked for the community’s help Thursday in a major speech outlining his plan to fight and prevent violence in the nation’s third-largest city.
Along with recent police reforms and statewide legislation, he highlighted a new public-private partnership that’ll help an estimated 7,200 youths over the next three years. The invitation-only speech came as the city has seen a troubling spike in crime and his police department is under an ongoing U.S. Department of Justice investigation.
“Every one of us has a role to play in rebuilding the vital partnership between our police and the community,” Emanuel said in his speech at Malcolm X College on Chicago’s near West Side. “So today I am calling on all Chicagoans to join in a comprehensive plan to confront gun violence. No matter who you are, what your background is, where you live in Chicago, this fight belongs to all of us. “
Outside of the college a couple dozen protesters stood quietly as Emanuel was about to speak. Some held signs calling for a civilian police accountability council they want created to investigate police misconduct cases.
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 recent days, Emanuel’s administration has announced plans to add nearly 1,000 police officers, as well as an expansion of the use of body cameras and mandatory de-escalation training for all officers.
His speech also touched on new technology, including gunshot-tracing cameras; gun legislation; partnering with federal authorities; and the need for more neighborhood resources.
Emanuel also asked Chicagoans for help. Calling respect “a two-way street,” he said there’s no pass for people to taunt police or for officers “belittling” citizens who need help.
“Fighting crime requires a partnership between the police and the community,” he said. “And we all know that this partnership has been tested in Chicago. It is a problem that has festered in this city for decades. The shooting of Laquan McDonald brought it to the breaking point.”
Emanuel recapped changes instituted by his administration, including abolishing the agency that handles police investigations and pitching a new system for reviewing police misconduct and department audits.
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.
The city’s image has also come up on the presidential campaign trail with Republican nominee Donald Trump suggesting Thursday that Chicago is more violent than Afghanistan. Trump also endorsed a stop-and-frisk policing method for the city, which a federal judge said New York City used unconstitutionally because of its overwhelming impact on minority residents.
Emanuel has 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.
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.
The effort is expected to cost about $134 million. 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.
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