On the morning after Mayor Emanuel’s highly-promoted speech on crime and safety, there’s a broad range of reactions. And it seems fair to say that most reactions are in some way or another critical.
We recorded our program a few hours before the speech, so the comments of our panelists were limited to the things we already knew about the Mayor’s address, such as his plan for 970 new hires at the police department.
Dahleen Glanton’s been writing for the Tribune for almost 30 years. This year she became a columnist. She has deep roots in the issues, history and culture of Chicago.
“I think one of the most important elements is police training,” she tells us. “And I don’t care what race you are, you have to know how to deal with these kind of situations because African American cops are kind of under the same pressure as white cops, and there have been some shootings involving some minority cops. So to me the key has to be to make sure that these cops get the proper support and the proper training to be able to do their jobs.”
Glenn Reedus has been a Chicago journalist, writer and editor for decades.
He agrees that there is a call in parts of the African American community for increased police presence. But, he cautions, “there’s a huge number of elements. There’s the inability to get a job because of something that happened in the past. There are substandard services. There are substandard products in your community. You live in the City, the job is in the suburbs, you don’t have a way to get to the suburbs. There’s just no one or two things you can put your finger on and say this is what’s wrong.”
And the aforementioned training is, in itself, controversial. What kind of training? Mayor Emanuel has called for an emphasis on “de-escalation” techniques, and wants mandatory classes in the procedure to begin quickly.
“Just two days of training?” Reedus asks. “This is not about these guys not knowing how to speak to people. It’s about these guys who grew up in a place where black folks were looked down upon and they carried that with them…so two days, what’s that going to be, 16 hours and suddenly you’re going to talk to people calmly because you’ve gone through this training and they’re having an episode?”
The Mayor is also seeking funding for $30 million in mentoring for “every 8th, 9th and 10th grader” in the 20 highest crime areas of the city. One of the most often-mentioned mentoring groups is Becoming a Man.
“It’s helpful, putting some resources to BAM I think is helpful,” Reedus says. “At the same time, I don’t know if kids who are seeking, boys who are seeking mentoring are the ones who are out in the street doing the dirt. And then you give it to that select group mentors, but what about the older folks? And I’ve talked about Cease Fire incessantly. I love Cease Fire. That’s where big chunks of money need to go, because you can get an immediate impact.”
“You know, one of the things I think we forget is how smart these guys are,” adds Glanton. “I mean they watch what is happening in this City. They know that the police are not making as many arrests. They know that people are not, crimes are not being solved. They know they can get away with these things, so there is no reason to stop because you’re not going to get caught, and that’s frightening to me.”
Glanton has written of her conditional support for stronger gun laws, a key issue for the Mayor and police department. It’s possibly the most hotly debated issue in the police-reform discussion, and it has been opposed by most black state legislators because they say it simply provides a pathway for sending more young African Americans into the penal system.
“I think there has to be a middle point on this,” Glanton asserts. “I am just as concerned as everyone else about young people getting trapped in this cycle of prison. I don’t think that’s a good thing. But, isn’t there some way where we could say after the first or even maybe the second event that you go to jail for the maximum if you are caught with an illegal gun? I don’t know why that would be a problem. I mean maybe someone else does, but to me if you want to get these repeat offenders off the street you have to do that. Now, for the young people and anybody else who needs it after that first offense, maybe there’s counseling, maybe there’s intervention, maybe there’s whatever it is you might want to participate in, but if you keep doing it you need to go to jail. And I don’t see why that’s an issue.”
And Reedus agrees that there’s an immediate need to get the most violent offenders off the streets.
“One of the things that we know about some of these offenders is that they are repeat offenders, and especially with the gun situation, so yeah, if you can lock up someone who has been involved in a shooting before, get that person off the street then of course it’s going to impact the numbers in the long-run, I think.”
“I mean, we’re losing a whole generation of young men,” Reedus adds, “and they are recruiting younger kids, and that’s why I think expanding the BAM program is so important because these kids are getting involved in this younger and younger.”
You can read a complete transcript of the show HERE: cn-transcript-sept-22-2016