CHICAGO – Virtually alone among the nine Chicagoans running for mayor, candidate Brandon Johnson does not promise to fill the growing number of vacant police department positions.
“Spending more on surveillance per capita … has been a failure,” Johnson said at a news conference outside City Hall.
While Johnson said he would cut $150 million in supervisory positions, a spokesman later said the money would be reallocated within the police department. The spokesman said he could spend on implementing a police reform consent decree and promoting and training new detectives.
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Johnson, a longtime staffer at the Chicago Teachers Union, promised to promote 200 new police detectives. Appearing with him at the press conference were several victims of violent crime. Johnson said the poor arrest record of criminals for shootings and murders in Chicago has left too many families in need of “closure.”
Johnson declined to answer directly when asked if he would fill current vacancies in the department. They number around 1,600, according to some estimates. A Johnson campaign spokesman, Bill Neidhardt, later called FOX 32 News to say, “We’re not going to commit to filling every job opening.”
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“Look, I get it,” Johnson said at the news conference. “People talk about surveillance as a strategy. But keep in mind that this is the strategy that has led to the failures that we are experiencing right now.”
Johnson promised to double spending on youth employment, calling it a more effective anti-violence strategy.
Every mayoral candidate promises some expansion of social services, especially mental health. They all support some version of a pilot program that the Lightfoot Administration is now running in various police districts. The goal is to respond with mental health professionals when a 9-1-1 caller indicates that it might be appropriate. Sources say it has been a challenge finding enough skilled people for what can be dangerous work.
Johnson also repeated a promise made by mayoral candidates here for decades: commit to redeploying sworn officers who now work desk jobs. Johnson said there are more than 900 of them. Rich Daley, Rahm Emanuel, and Lori Lightfoot made similar statements.
One snag: The Fraternal Order of the Police Union insists that some “desk jobs” can only be best done by sworn police officers.
Campaign spokesman Bill Neidhardt sent FOX 32 News the following statement:
“Brandon Johnson’s priority is to train and promote 200 new detectives. We will also eliminate mental health crisis response from police officers. That’s the fastest way to make CPD more efficient, not empty promises from police officers.” candidates to recruit 1,600 new officers overnight when police departments across the country are scrambling to hire.”