Participants in a town hall televised Friday night on Fox News Channel seemed to agree that leadership is the key to resolving Chicago’s violence epidemic, but there was little consensus about what exactly that means.
“The Ingraham Angle” hosted the event — the program’s first-ever town hall — before Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced this week that he would not seek a third term in the Windy City.
The facts are grim. Since 2011 — when Emanuel first won election — the city has endured 4,046 homicides. Host Laura Ingraham noted that is more than the 3,481 U.S. soldiers who lost their lives in the Iraq war from 2003 through 2010.
As the bodies pile up, however, the police are solving few of the murders. The 27 percent homicide closure rate since 2010 is the worst of a group of big cities analyzed by The Washington Post.
Jason Hill, a DePaul University professor, suggested that parts of the city need “military receivership” so residents can feel safe.
“I think there is hope, but I think the hope lies in strong leadership,” he said. “And I think the hope lies in a change in governance. I think we have an incompetent mayor who is recalcitrant. I think corruption and violence are part of the political DNA of this city.”
Hill said Emanuel “looked the other way” in the face of corruption and violence.
To Illinois state Rep. LaShawn Ford, a Democrat, leadership comes down to skin color.
“We need stronger black leaders. We need a black mayor in Chicago,” he said. “There’s no way we’re going to be able to deal with the issues in Chicago unless you have a mayor that really understands the critical issues that’s [sic] impacting the people of Chicago. The black issue is the number-one issue in the city of Chicago.”
Ford (pictured above left) added that white people have a constructive role to play.
“White people are good, and I want to work with them … I have nothing against white people,” he said. “But what I do know is we have to work alongside of white people — blacks and whites. Nobody can really solve black-people problems better than blacks.”
Others faulted the Chicago Police Department. The mayor needs to “lead the way,” said the Rev. Ira Agree, pastor of Greater St. John Bible Church.
“If a house is on fire, it’s my responsibility to get out of the house,” he said. “But it’s the fire department’s responsibility to put the fire out, not to come on the scene and lecture, ‘Was someone playing with matches? Whose fault is it?’”
Tio Hardiman, who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for governor earlier this year, noted that 70 percent of black families had fathers at home in the 1950s. Today, he added, 70 percent of black fathers are absent.
Hardiman, executive director of Violence Interrupters, said too many individuals and organizations make money off the violence epidemic. “Black death is a hustle,” he said.
Hardiman said the money would be better spent on organizations like his to train police officers in conflict resolution and gang mitigation in order prevent murders from being committed rather than merely respond to them afterwards.
“Many, many of these cases, these claims against the police are bogus. And they’re used to push this narrative of police corruption that is quite often fraudulent.”
Police officers themselves called for leaders to change a culture in which officers feel under siege for doing their jobs and outgunned on the streets.
Martin Preib, vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Lodge 7 in Chicago and author of “Crooked City,” said Chicago has paid $700 million settling police misconduct cases.
“Many, many of these cases, these claims against the police are bogus,” he said. “And they’re used to push this narrative of police corruption that is quite often fraudulent.”
One of the results of the litigation and payouts is that it triggers excessive levels of counterproductive scrutiny, Preib said.
“All officers now in Chicago face an absolutely ludicrous level of oversight and potential lawsuits and criminal charges by a prosecutor that is clearly anti-police,” he said. “And so this is one of the reasons that the police are unable to do the kind of effective police work that they want to do. Policing is an art.”
Kevin Graham, president of the FOP chapter, said Emanuel closed three police stations and two detective areas.
“It didn’t start yesterday. It started several years ago when they decided to underfund and underman the police department,” he said. “We are still almost 1,000 policemen short of where we need to be. We only have half of the detectives that we need.”
The number of detectives trying to solve crimes dropped from 2,000 to 1,000 in recent years, Graham said.
“We have to make sure the politicians realize that they have to spend the money to hire police officers, hire the right police officers, make sure they are trained, have a facility in which to train them,” he said. “And then also, be out there in the community. We’ve removed our foot officers through most of the city.”