CHICAGO – Mayor Rahm Emanuel appealed to Chicago residents Thursday for help fighting the troubling rise in city violence, announcing $36 million in youth mentoring efforts, policing strategies and gun legislation as his plan to fight and prevent crime.
He used the invitation-only speech to cap off announcements in recent days that the city will add nearly 1,000 police officers, expand the use of body cameras and require de-escalation training, reforms in the wake of an ongoing U.S. Department of Justice investigation of the police department.
The former White House chief of staff highlighted a new public-private mentoring partnership that’ll help over 7,000 youths over the next three years, veering from prepared remarks when describing the struggles young people face in neighborhoods tormented by gangs.
“The deck has been stacked against the kids,” he said. “It’s time we reshuffle the deck and put our kids on the top of that deck.”
Emanuel, in his second term as mayor, has been trying to rebuild trust in his leadership, particularly after the 2014 death of Laquan McDonald, a black teenager shot 16 times by a white police officer.
The officer was charged with murder, but only after a judge ordered the public release of the graphic squad car video last year. Circulation of the video prompted frequent protests, allegations of a cover-up and repeated calls for Emanuel to step down.
The Justice Department has since launched a probe of department practices. And Emanuel, who initially opposed the idea of a federal probe, said Thursday that the city should work with federal agencies to improve.
“Fighting crime requires a partnership between the police and the community. And we all know that this partnership has been tested in Chicago,” he said. “It is a problem that has festered in this city for decades. The shooting of Laquan McDonald brought it to a breaking point.”
His speech also touched on new technology, including gunshot-tracing cameras; gun shop legislation; and the need for more neighborhood resources.
He bluntly asked Chicagoans for assistance. Calling respect “a two-way street,” he said there’s no pass for people to taunt police or for officers “belittling” citizens who need help.
“Every one of us has a role to play in rebuilding the vital partnership between our police and the community. We all have to hold ourselves, and each other, to a higher standard,” he said.