Illinois Justice Project

Question One

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.

Lightfoot

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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?

I believe that that is a false dichotomy. A mayor can pursue meaningful criminal justice reform while also ensuring public safety. I am the only candidate in this race that has a broad depth of experience in dealing with issues related to police brutality, accountability and police and criminal justice reform. My perspective on these issues stems from my roles as a federal prosecutor, the head of the former Office of Professional Standards, head of the Police Accountability Task Force (PATF), whose report served as the underpinnings for both the Obama Department of Justice (DOJ) report and recommendations on the Chicago Police Department (CPD) and the consent decree, president of the Chicago Police Board, and a board member of the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights.

 My body of work demonstrates my commitment to ensuring that public safety is available to everyone and in every neighborhood, that officers must be held accountable for misconduct and that taxpayers cannot continue to shoulder the burden of unchecked misconduct manifested in settlements, judgments, and attorneys' fees currently totaling more than $500 million in the last seven years. As detailed in my 16-page public safety plan, I will continue and accelerate the pace of reform within the CPD, including implementing civilian oversight of CPD, ensuring officers receive training and resources spelled out in the consent decree, including more officer wellness resources, training police officers on interacting with youth, enlisting health professionals to serve as co- responders with CPD officers and expanding efforts to diversify CPD. In an effort to further repair relationships between the police and the communities they serve, I will create a new chief diversity office for CPD, design a real community policing strategy that rebuilds what was lost when CPD disinvested in CAPS, undertake peace and reconciliation efforts, involve communities in police training, and require police recruits to participate in a two week orientation program in the first districts to which they are assigned.

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?

Yes. As mayor, I will continue to advocate for criminal justice reforms at the local, state and federal levels.

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?

I support efforts aimed at reducing prison and jail populations by keeping non-violent and low-level offenders out of jail while they await trial. As mayor, I will work with local, state and federal leaders, policing and criminal justice experts to identify ways to further reform the criminal justice system.


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

Preckwinkle

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