1. THE ROLE OF THE MAYOR IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM: Criminal justice advocates, both locally and nationally have argued for the need for continued reform of the criminal justice including the promotion of policies and programs that can better guarantee a fair and effective process for all people that have contact with the justice system, regardless of their color, creed, economic standing, where they call home in the city, or whether they are victims, law enforcement officials, community members or the accused.
There is a concern from some that reform efforts frustrate law enforcement’s ability to ensure public safety. A central question is whether reforms that call for constitutional policing and safety can be balanced positing that reform efforts actually bolster safety outcomes.
What is your position on the perceived balance between pursuing criminal justice reform efforts and the requirements for achieving safety outcomes for law enforcement? Does the pursuit of these two goals conflict or go hand-in-hand?
The pursuit of criminal justice reform and safety outcomes for law enforcement go hand in hand. The City of Chicago has historically viewed public safety as an atomized issue that is separate from economic issues, public schools, and mental health. I don’t see it that way; I view public safety as a key part of a city’s ecosystem. The most effective public safety programs around the country have demonstrated that criminal justice reform and police reform are not opposing ideas in crime reduction; they are the foundations to achieving it. The more individuals who have positive relationships with law enforcement the safer our neighborhoods will be. At the same time, if fewer non-violent individuals are removed from their community, work and family, our communities will be stronger.
The current Mayor of Chicago has played a role in determining the direction of criminal justice policy at both the city and state level. As mayor, would you continue that involvement? If so, would the substance of your role and advocacy change from the current administration? If so, how?
As Mayor, I will create the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice (“OCJ”) modeled after the New York office by the same name. The office will oversee various task-forces comprised of city, state, and federal law enforcement, subject experts and community leaders focused on multi-dimensional solutions to critical public safety issues; including: gun violence, vehicular hijacking prevention, witness and victim services, domestic violence, juvenile justice, neighborhood stabilization/wellness, sanctuary, and returning residents. The OCJ will build on regional criminal justice reforms that prevent crimes before they happen. The OCJ will also be responsible for synthesizing the current public safety landscape, identifying evidence based strategies that reduce violence and work to coordinate those efforts within the administration and between the City and public safety stakeholders including the community. To advance this work, my leadership as Mayor on this issue is tantamount to success. As I have done with criminal justice reform at the County level, I will continue to demonstrate that leadership and political will that is necessary to ensure that we are working towards reducing violence and improving the lives of all our residents.
If you support furthering reform efforts, should next steps focus solely on reducing incarceration of low-level offenders or go beyond? Are there efforts that you believe need to be pursued or current efforts that need to be abandoned?
Criminal justice reform doesn’t start at reducing the incarceration of nonviolent offenders. As Mayor, I will ensure that trained mental health professionals work with police to desescalate conflicts whenever possible. I will end the gang database, invest more in CAPS and community policing and training, and ensure that law enforcement officers’ training includes cultural competency
2. GUN VIOLENCE PREVENTION: Although public sentiment might suggest that violence in Chicago is at an all-time high, Chicago has experienced a steady decline in murders over the past decades, from nearly 900 homicides in years throughout the 1990s to 473 in 2015. In 2016, however, Chicago saw 765 murders, the most in two decades. The previously cited statistics do not incorporate the countless number of Chicago residents who have been injured by gun violence, live with the trauma of having a victim of gun violence among their family or friends, or witness gun violence. 2017 and 2018 has seen drops in murder, but despite the numbers, gun violence at any rate is unacceptable.
Cited as causes for the jump in violence were the growing lack of investment in at-risk communities, limited resources for addressing mental health and substance use, easy access to illegal guns, poor community-police relations, falling clearance rates, a withdrawn police force and an ineffective justice system.
Are there particular causes, of the ones cited above, that you believe have had the greatest impact on gun violence or causes on the list that had little impact in your opinion? Are the others causes not on the list, that you believe caused the spike or initiated the most recent drop? If elected, what would you do to help improve bond court practice and outcomes across the state?
I believe that all the issues you have stated have had an impact on gun violence. But there is another major issue that you didn’t mention: guns illegally trafficked into Illinois. Approximately 60% of the illegal guns found by CPD originated out of state. Reducing the flow of these guns is a critical component of reducing gun violence in Chicago.
Is there a change in policy, or multiple policies, that you will make as Mayor of Chicago that will address the causes outlined above and lower gun violence?
As Mayor, I will create the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice (OCJ) and utilize it to ensure that Chicago’s public safety plan includes strategic leadership, coordination, and the implementation of a comprehensive set of violence reduction strategies and interventions. To increase investment in underserved communities, I will ensure that the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund is more supportive of small and medium businesses in underserved communities by paying in real-time for projects, a change from the current practice of rebates for money spent. This will ensure that low liquidity isn’t a barrier to the success of local enterprises. To improve mental health outcomes, I will ensure that trained mental health professionals, in collaboration with the city’s Department of Public Health and Office of Emergency Management, work with and in some cases lead, the response to mental health crisis cases.
Through the OCJ, I will urge Illinois’ Governor to sign Senate Bill 337, which requires Illinois gun dealers to be licensed by the Illinois State Police and increases their responsibilities to restrict straw purchases. Secondly, we will work with the state legislature on legislation that lowers the burden of proof for straw purchases, preventing guns from ending up in the hands of those prohibited from owning guns. Finally, the OCJ will convene a taskforce of local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to better share information and coordinate operations to disrupt trafficking networks. We believe that this new level of coordination with state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Attorney’s office, will lead to an increase in federal gun prosecutions for the most prolific gun traffickers targeting the Chicago area. This must also include asking Attorney General Kwame Raoul, given his strong record opposing gun violence, to file a lawsuit against the State of Indiana and others, stopping the source of most of the crime guns recovered by the Chicago police.
I will work to improve the relations between CPD and the local community by acknowledging past abuses and working to create a culture of accountability. I will also institute greater civilian accountability over CPD, by instituting the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability’s proposal to create the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability, a civilian committee, to appoint the Chicago Police Board, the Chief Administrator of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (“COPA”) and recommend candidates for Superintendent for approval of the Mayor. The Commission would also take the lead in setting policy and strategy in collaboration with CPD leadership and the community it represents.
To increase clearance rates and effectiveness, I will increase the number of personnel dedicated to looking at raw physical data involved with homicides. With additional resources, detectives could spend more time with officers on the beat, developing their own relationships with communities prior to shooting and homicide events. These relationships will allow CPD detectives to build trust before they need it. Finally, as Mayor, I will encourage the entire CPD and detectives especially, to improve collaboration with prosecutors at the State’s Attorney Office; bringing them in earlier to ensure that the strongest cases are built.
The previous administration opined that increasing sentencing on illegal gun possessors is a successful strategy for reducing gun violence because it incapacitates bad actors and deters future illegal acts. Opponents have cited that the current State sentencing structures for gun possession is already among the highest in the nation and changes won’t provide any extra deterrence given the police case closure rate and economic status of communities. They further argue that public resources now spent on incarceration would be better diverted toward elevated investment in at-risk communities as a strategy for reducing violence and risky conduct before it happens. What is your opinion on this issue?
It is very important not to treat all ‘gun offenders’ as interchangeable. There is a major difference between a person who uses a gun to frighten or harm another and a young man or young woman who carries a gun to school or to work because they are afraid of being attacked en-route. Harsh penalties will not deter frightened people but they will derail their lives. We must invest in better street lighting, transportation, housing, and businesses at the same time that we pursue gun offenders. We need eyes on the street to improve safety in neighborhoods made more dangerous because they have lost density.
Do you support the creation of the Office of Violence Prevention? What is your opinion on public health approaches to reducing gun violence?
Yes, I absolutely support the creation of the Office of Violence Prevention (OVP) and as County Board President, I was a vocal advocate of establishing such an office that would coordinate the drafting of a comprehensive, public health focused, strategic plan for reducing violence across the city. In addition to my work within the criminal justice system, particularly in Bond reform and ensuring that those involved in the system have access to resources, I charged my staff to work closely with the Mayor and other public safety stakeholders during the planning process for the creation of the OVP which has had renewed energy over the last year.
I have long advocated for a public health approach to violence and believe that the best way to curb it is to treat the root causes of that violence, much of which stems from trauma and divestment in community infrastructure, and a lack in quality education, mental health services and economic opportunity.
We know from research and common sense, that violence causes trauma that leads to more violence unless victims receive the help and support they need. It is crucial that all victims of trauma are treated including those who have not led blameless lives.
Using data and research available, I will work with community organizations to begin a strategic and coordinated alignment of community resources combined with an expansion and replication of proven models to stop violence before it starts in Chicago. Fortunately, there has been much work already done both here and in other jurisdictions that have been able to see an increase in public safety.The leadership and political will to implement a comprehensive plan and identify the resources needed will be key goals of my administration.
3. DRUG POSSESSION: Local police have been on the frontline of fighting the adverse effects of drug addiction and the drug trade for decades. Despite massive efforts and expenditures to avoid the resulting negative impacts, more than 72,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2017. In metro Chicago in 2017, more people died from drug overdoses than from gun injuries. Despite generation-long efforts, both supply and demand for illegal drugs have remained functionally unaffected.
Recently, particularly in the light of the opioid epidemic (which has had a devastating impact on minority communities), the issue of substance abuse has begun to be recast as a public health issue, prompting calls for sentencing reform and treatment. Law enforcement approaches, while having questionable success in reducing the overall supply and demand of drugs, have seen Blacks to be far more likely to be incarcerated for drug offenses, even though they use and sell drugs at a rate similar to other races.
Do you agree that in addressing drug issues, the City of Chicago, needs to shift their models further away from a law enforcement-based approach toward a public health model or do you believe the city should strengthen their law enforcement approaches? If you believe there should be a shift toward the public health model, what specific policies and programs would you pursue?
The City of Chicago must shift away from a law enforcement based approach to drug issues to a public health model. The law enforcement model costs too much and is ineffective in creating positive outcomes and reducing recidivism for those who cycle in and out of the criminal justice system.
Under my leadership as County Board President, I have demonstrated the importance of utilizing a public health model to help those who suffered from substance abuse. The extension of behavioral health, including mental health and substance abuse treatment, via the expansion of Medic-Aid through County Care has brought treatment into communities across Chicago, even during the current administration’s closing of much needed mental health clinics.
The challenge is to build on this success by serving the most traumatized communities and aligning public safety efforts with public health goals. Cook County’s success in reducing the jail population without a negative impact on public safety, rests in part on understanding arrestees’ need for treatment and support.
The specific policies needed to support the alignment of law enforcement and public health include deflecting people who abuse drugs into treatment, and supporting supervision and probation with behavioral health treatment. Treatment must be available to everyone. It must be recognized that addicts do have relapses and that a harsh response is counterproductive. The treatment options should include medically supported treatment to ensure that everyone has the best possible chance at a full recovery.
The term Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) refers to the disproportionately high percentage of minorities in the criminal justice system in relation to their proportion of the general population. Experts argue that DMC is especially problematic in drug code enforcement. Do you believe DMC is an issue that can be addressed or an unavoidable byproduct of segregated violent communities? If you believe it is possible to address, how would you reduce or eliminate DMC in Chicago?
Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) exists at every level of the criminal justice system and that can be seen not only when you view the data but when one visits the Cook County Jail, the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center or the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice. I strongly believe that DMC can and must be addressed if we are going to achieve equity and opportunity for all residents in Chicago, no matter where you live.
There is no more glaring example of DMC than in our current drug code enforcement. For example, according to the ACLU, marijuana use is roughly equal among Blacks and whites, yet Blacks are 3.73 times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession.
To address and reduce DMC in Chicago, we must first be honest and transparent in talking about it and the negative impact it has had for many of our residents, particularly in black and brown communities. Second, we must provide ongoing racial biases training, support and resources for all criminal and public safety stakeholders so that they understand how their decisions and interaction with these communities have had a negative impact. Finally, we know that treatment works to end addiction and the behaviors that addicts engage in to support their habit. Providing treatment instead of harsh punishments for low level drug offenders makes sense for everyone regardless of race or gender. It is through the drug laws that young people often first encounter the criminal justice system so reforming such laws will keep many from any criminal justice system involvement. If they also receive treatment and support they will not be forced into crimes of survival which again greatly increases their chances of avoiding contact with the criminal justice system.
Would you support efforts to defelonize possession of small amounts of controlled substances in an effort to better deal with addiction and continue to right-size the incarcerated population as numerous other states have? Please relate your response to anything in your background that demonstrates how you have advanced the issue of racial equity in general.
It has been recommended by the State of Illinois Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing that there be misdemeanor amounts for all drugs. It is nonsensical that possession of certain drugs must be charged as a felony even for the tiniest amount. Getting drug offenders out of prison is important for several reasons. One is that treatment is rarely available in prison. Many drug offenders would do much better receiving treatment in the community than going to prison. Illinois’ prisons are dangerously overcrowded. Releasing addicts so they can receive treatment and services while living and working in the community will reduce drug addiction, increase public safety and save money.
Equity, particularly racial equity has been the driving force for most of the work that I have done as County Board President. In my third administration, I have once again shown that leadership by drafting a strategic plan that expressly lays out how important racial equity is to the work of government both in terms of how we create policies and how we make budgetary decisions. From my work to reduce the jail population and the racial disparities inherent in that system to the legislative agenda that I have advanced to remove barriers to employment for young people, I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish. I know that as the Mayor, I can use that same framework to help achieve equity for all our residents in the City of Chicago.
Speaking more broadly, how would you rate the current state of deflection (which ensures people do not have contact with the system at all) and diversion (which attempts to remove people from the system that are already there) programs offered to Chicago justice-involved residents.
I support programs that deflect people from any contact with the criminal justice system with the goal of ensuring people get the treatment and support they need. As Cook County Board President, my office works with all the criminal justice stakeholders, the Chicago Police Department and the Cook County Health system to explore and implement deflection and diversion programs within the criminal justice system, particularly for those who struggle with mental health challenges. The recurring problem that I see is that many diversion programs are not carefully enough designed to achieve their goals to minimize contact and deeper involvement in the system. Unfortunately, all too often putting someone into a program means that he or she may be penalized too harshly for failures to comply with program requirements. The reality is that overcoming addiction is a journey and having relapses or missing an appointment for treatment is a part of that journey. If they are in a program that is supposed to keep them out of the criminal justice system, missing an appointment may put them in jail. In fact, missing an appointment may simply reflect that a person is poor and lacks resources not a deliberate challenge to the program.
4. JISC and DFSS: The Chicago Police Department operates the Juvenile Intervention and Support Center (JISC), a physical space and approach to juvenile delinquency designed to take in children that are arrested and determine the disposition that provides the greatest opportunities for future success. The JISC is located at 3900 S. California Avenue and provides police for seven Districts: 2, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12. A central purpose of the JISC is to reduce crime and recidivism. It is modeled after centers in other cities (e.g. Miami), where the underlying principles include connection and linkage to services, avoidance of arrest, transparency in data, and inclusion of stakeholders in an advisory capacity. A key principle behind the JISC is that intervening in a youth’s life and connecting him or her and their families with providers in the social services, health care, and education systems is a more effective way to prevent future delinquency for some children than incarceration or other traditional juvenile justice approaches.
Advocates have argued that the JISC’s has failed to employ model principles—such as avoidance of arrests, transparency in data, and inclusion of stakeholders which has hampered the JISC from those that could provide more services—and therefore, has prevented the JISC from fulfilling its purpose of reducing crime and recidivism. How would you improve the JISC? Do you think that an improved program design and implementation could improve outcomes for individual juveniles, families and communities as it has in cities like Miami where just 5 percent of the youth in the program recidivate? If so, what design would you implement?
It is clear that the JISC could be improved and I would task my staff to work with all the stakeholders at the table to identify the best path forward based on an evaluation of the data and review of the concerns expressed. If the JISC achieved better outcomes including more successful diversions from the justice system and fewer re-arrests it would benefit both juveniles and the entire community. It must be remembered that the JISC in Miami is primarily operated under the auspices of the providers who offer services to the juveniles brought there. In contrast, the JISC in Chicago is primarily operated by the Chicago Police Department. Giving the providers more of a voice in the operation of the JISC could improve outcomes.
Would you support third-party oversight of the JISC?
As currently run, third-party oversight of the JISC is necessary. We should also explore re-structuring the JISC in the manner that it has been successfully implemented such as in Miami-Dade County.
The JISC relies on support from the Department of Family and Support Services, a wing of city government that distributes millions of dollars in services each year that can decrease violence by supporting workforce development, homeless support and services for the formerly incarcerated. Would you direct DFSS dollars in a different manner?
This question relates back to the first two questions. If the police continue to run the JISC it may not be the best place to invest DFSS dollars. If the providers have a more direct role in administration, it may be a good place to invest DFSS dollars because it would provide an opportunity to invest in services for a juvenile at a crucial point in his or her life.
As Mayor, I would work with juvenile justice stakeholders and the administration at DFSS to review data and any evaluation of the program to determine how to best leverage these dollars short and long term. I would note that those DFSS dollars must also be viewed through the broader lenses of identifying our resources, how we are spending those resources and what our return on investment is. Ultimately, we want that investment to yield lives saved, decreased involvement in the criminal justice system, a reduction in recidivism and improved emotional and social outcomes for our young people.
5. EMPLOYMENT: The National Employment Law Project has estimated that nearly 42 percent of Illinoisans have criminal records or arrest histories. In 2017 alone, more than 27,000 people left Illinois prisons and more than 50,000 people were released from Cook County Jail. Many of them returning to neighborhoods on Chicago’s South and West Sides, which have high rates of poverty and little economic opportunity. Giving people with criminal records a fair shot at employment is increasingly being embraced as necessary to reduce crime.
In 2015, Mayor Emanuel signed into law the Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act, the city’s version of “ban the box.” The effectiveness of that law, however, has been called into question by advocates as it allows employers in Chicago to run background checks immediately after they select a person for an interview, but before the interview happens. This prescribed sequence has arguably failed to adequately protect individuals from being denied a job based on their criminal history. Advocates point to California as a model which bars a background check from happening until after an applicant is offered the position, as the most effective version of the law.
Are there current city-wide employment reentry programs that you would support? Are there new programs that you would support or adopt through the City Council or Illinois General Assembly? Do you believe the ban the box law, called the Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act, needs modification?
Employment reentry programs are an important component for creating economic opportunity for residents across the City, no matter what their racial background or where they live. As President of the Cook County Board, I demonstrated that importance by directing increased funding for our county-wide Recidivism Reduction Grant Program. Grant awards under this program were awarded competitively through an RFP process and each year the strength of proposals grows. One key area of concentration for recidivism reduction is employment. We have funded soft skills training, sector specific training, job placement, and wrap around services. Many of the programs we funded in specific community areas merit expansion due to the overwhelming need.
Barriers to employment for many of these program participants directly relate to their previous criminal histories. Given the concerns expressed by advocates, I would task my administration with reviewing the Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act and make modifications as necessary. In particular, moving background checks to after the interview would clearly help many qualified candidates move beyond their past mistakes.
The city of Chicago has taken strong steps to toward offering employment opportunities across its agencies to those with criminal records. Advocates have applauded those efforts and argue that is time for the city government to go further and make the city the gold standard model for instituting fair chance hiring practices. It is argued that leadership by the city could positively influence private hiring practices. Do you agree that the city should go further?
The City should take the lead in instituting fair chance hiring practices beyond what is already in place. As the Chief Executive of the City, I do believe that the Mayor has an abundance of political capital and ability to build consensus across all stakeholders, including the private sector. I have led by example in many arenas and would do so on this issue.
6. HOUSING: Throughout the county, Chicago has one of the highest rates and absolute number of people without housing, with nearly 6,000 people in Chicago who lack housing on any given night. One study showed 54 percent of those without housing had been incarcerated in the past, now facing barriers including landlord restrictions on tenants with criminal histories and restricted access to public housing. These barriers persist even though some academics have concluded that there is no predictive value of a criminal record in the housing context. What is known is that housing instability often leads to re-arrest and re-incarceration.
As Mayor of Chicago, what efforts would you make to remove barriers to housing for previously incarcerated individuals thereby helping to reduce the recidivism rate? Would you expand legal protections? Would you provide greater financial incentives for landlords?
As President of the Cook County Board, I oversaw the opening of Cook County Public Housing to returning residents to the extent permitted by federal law. I certainly think the Chicago Housing Authority should be as proactive. We also recognized the special needs of returning residents by funding housing programs as part of our recidivism reduction efforts. This funding encouraged private sector innovation and productive partnerships. For example, IMAN, the Inner City Muslim Network Action program, received funding from the County to house and provide construction training for men released from prison. In addition, IMAN received abandoned houses to repair from the Cook County Land Bank. That program should be expanded throughout Chicago.
I would look at expanded legal protections for returning residents in consultation with the property owners and managers who provide our best affordable housing. It should be remembered that overall Chicago needs to offer a great deal more affordable housing to returning residents and to many other residents with no justice involvement who need housing.
7. CRIMINAL DEBT AND THE TRAFFIC CODE: Numerous recent studies and media stories have identified perceived unfair administrative and policing practices that have taken money out of Black and Brown neighborhoods. A Chicago Tribune story uncovered a massive discrepancy between the number of bike citations written in majority Black communities compared to majority white ones. A WBEZ story highlighted that increased ticketing for city vehicle stickers disproportionally forced Black residents into debt and the criminal justice system. A Chicago Sun-Times piece found that despite de-criminalization of small amounts of marijuana, Black Chicagoans account for the vast majority of arrests and tickets for its possession. Twitter users discovered and publicized a joint Norfolk Southern and Chicago Police Department strategy of placing bait-trucks filled with new shoes in poor, Black neighborhoods with the intent of arresting those who went into the bait trucks.
The response from city officials has been that these policies, which may have a discriminatory racial impact, are linked to attempts to keep majority Black communities – torn apart by violence – safer and raise revenue for the city, which is in need of financial assistance.
Do you believe these goals justify the disparate impact outlined above or do you believe that the city needs to re-examine policies and practices like the ones above – which some advocates argue exacerbate poor relations with the city and law enforcement – to ensure communities of color are not victimized?
It is ridiculous to argue that increased levels of ticketing for expired city vehicle stickers helps keep poor neighborhoods safer by raising revenue for the city. In my nearly thirty years as a public servant, I have long advocated against policies and practices like these that have a discriminatory racial impact and I would continue to do so if elected Mayor.
Over the years, I have worked at the County level to ensure that the policies that we implement do not negatively impact marginalized communities. For example, within the corrections system, I reduced the surcharges the County received from phone calls of detainees to their loved ones, I also have worked with stakeholders and the Clerk’s Office to review and reduce fines and fees for those involved in the criminal justice system, regardless of whether it would negatively impact the County Budget. As Mayor, I would eliminate these discriminatory practices, no revenue should be generated solely off the backs of those who are least able to afford it. Neighborhoods become safer as residents have more income to meet their basic needs. Bait trucks, like the bait cars used to ensnare young people, are indefensible.
If you are against these policies, how would you ensure that they are not implemented? Are there principles that you would adopt that would serve the goal of avoiding policies like these? If you support these policies as a necessary step to protect communities, how would you justify their disparate impact to members of communities of color that feel victimized by them?
First and foremost, I would ensure that I have the leadership in place who are aligned with my policy position and the fundamental principles that I have integrated into my government life, particularly in my role as County Board President. Those principles include fairness, equity and excellence in everything that we do, whether it’s adopting policies or aligning our budget with the values we believe in. As Mayor, I would lead by example and review all existing policy and practices with the use of a racial equity assessment tool. For those policies that have a negative impact on any marginalized population, I would work with all stakeholders to either modify or eliminate them.
The City of Chicago requests that the Secretary of State suspend thousands of licenses a year for purely financial obligations that stem from non-moving violations. Taking licenses away from anyone, but especially low-income individuals inhibits their ability to work (and pay off fines), care for their young and elderly, and could drive them into the criminal justice system. Should these requests end?
This practice must be carefully examined to see if it is necessary and if hardship cases can be considered so that exemptions may be offered. As I mentioned above, I will review all existing policies to ensure that they do not have a negative impact on any marginalized population.
8. THE CONSENT DECREE AND POLICING: In August of 2017, the current Illinois Attorney General sued the City of Chicago, contending that ongoing reforms by the city at the time were not sufficient to prevent the Chicago Police Department from continuing patterns of excessive and deadly force that disproportionately impact Blacks and Latinos. Many argue that the consent decree, which covers pressing issues such as use of force, training and community policing, is an opportunity to help turn around historic shortfalls that have frayed community-police relations.
The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) has argued that the consent decree is not needed and other means of policy change should be pursued. Do you agree with the FOP that the Consent Decree is not needed? If you believe it is needed, what type of change can it provide if front-line police officers have not bought in? How should communities be incorporated in the process of enforcing the consent decree?
I strongly believe that the consent decree is needed and that we as a City cannot transform our police department and how our officers engage with the community without the oversight and intentionality that the consent decree will provide. It is absolutely a part of the solution when addressing the code of silence and the culture of violence that has persisted for decades with the department.
As Mayor, I will ensure that the Chicago Police Department fully complies with the mandates of the consent decree. I will also create the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability to oversee accountability and community engagement, working as partners with the Chicago Police Department. The Committee will play a role in ensuring that CPD implements the Consent Decree and will be instrumental in better understanding what community policing looks like as well as addressing the concerns of those most impacted when setting policies and practices.
Finally, we must work with front- line officers to ensure that they have the resources and support they need to make the necessary changes outlined by the decree. It should be remembered that the majority of our police officers take their oath seriously and they serve and protect our communities every day, often putting their own lives on the line. For some, they themselves have been negatively impacted by the code of silence and culture of violence that they have witnessed. We must extend support to them so that they feel empowered to help us implement the decree. Training and listening to their concerns, being fair and holding everyone accountable for reform will go a long way to creating the path for their buy-in.
If you generally support the consent decree, is there a specific part of the consent decree that falls short of your expectations? If you do not support the consent decree, which section or sections do you believe are particularly damaging? If so, why?
I support the concept contained in the consent decree that Police Officers shall direct people in crisis to the health care system. However, the decree does not explain how this is supposed to happen or where specifically people in crisis should be referred. The police need clear guidelines and procedures to implement this and drafting them should be a priority. In addition, I am disappointed that the consent decree does not specifically address the promotion and discipline process with the department.
While not addressed in the consent decree, the next police employment contract will likely have a large impact on a number of relevant issues, including promotion and discipline. How would you approach negotiations and are there particular points of interest that you would focus on?
As County Board President, I have a proven track record in successfully working with the unions and negotiating fair employment contracts that are in the best interests of our employees and our tax-payers. Historically, the County's negotiations for collective bargaining agreements extended years past the expiration date of prior agreements.
My administration worked with the Bureau of Human Resources and the unions to negotiate the most recent round of contracts in a more timely manner, addressing key operational and policy challenges. I will take this same approach with negotiating the next police employment contract, ensuring that the City reaches a deal that addresses those concerns not reflected in the decree. In particular, we must ensure promotions are based on merit and not on relationships. As mayor, I will see to it that diverse officers with strong records of proactive crime-fighting, stellar complaint records, and a history of strong community engagement are promoted, to set the right tone for the entire department. I will also ensure that officers who require intervention due to their disciplinary records are flagged as early as possible, provided the training and support they need to change their behavior and held accountable if those changes are not made.
Youth advocates have argued that the funding for a $95 million police training facility would be better spent on community investment, claiming it would be more effective in preventing violence. How would you respond to these activists?
I opposed the funding for the $95 million police training facility in part due to many of the concerns expressed by activists. Moving forward, if the facility is built, we have a real opportunity to look at it not just from a training perspective but also from a community perspective. Many advocates have considered fully integrating community partners within the space with an intentional focus on community policing and training with the academy. As Mayor, I would work with these advocates, CPD and other partners to determine the feasibility of such a model which would in principle and practice show the true partnership and collaboration needed between police and community.