Vallas on Public Safety

By Paul Vallas

There is no greater responsibility for City government than ensuring all neighborhoods are safe and secure. All Chicagoans should be able to drive or take public transportation to work, allow their children to walk to local schools or parks, or just simply sit in their yards or on their porches without fear or anxiety over their safety.

With over 3,700 people murdered and over 15,000 shot and wounded since 2012, with citywide vehicular high-jackings up 178% percent, with CTA crime up 47 percent since 2015 and with a murder clearance rate of only 17 percent and 4 percent of shootings, Chicago is clearly facing a public safety crisis.

There is no more effective way to combat crime and improve public safety than to have an effective police force in which every neighborhood has enough officers who are familiar with – and ideally come from – the community. These officers also need to be well trained and equipped, but also engaged with and accountable to the community.

This is not what we have had in Chicago. And this is why I am running for Mayor.

Accountability is essential for the Chicago Police Department (CPD) and the community. But real accountability cannot be achieved unless police officers have the numbers, training, equipment and supervision to do their jobs properly. You can’t have accountability when you have no “beat integrity” and officers are routinely moved from their home districts to others they are unfamiliar with and whose residents are unfamiliar with them. You can’t have accountability when you do not have appropriate, modern, continuous and redundant training in key areas such as crisis situation de-escalation. Or when you don’t have adequate supervision. Or when officers have no alternatives to using deadly force.

Accountability starts at the very top, and the mayor must set the tone. I have laid out a very specific and detailed plan on how to provide CPD with the resources and support needed to improve public safety across Chicago. This requires that there be beat integrity across the city and that that officers are trained to deal with school-age children in every school and that the CTA have enough officers to patrol stations and trains.

This means that the five detective areas be permanently restored with a full contingent of 1,200 detectives. It also means there must be sufficient supervisors, including one sergeant for every ten officers. It also means sufficient training officers ideally drawn from the ranks of CPD’s most accomplished officers.

It also requires that every officer be equipped and trained on a Taser and that there be sufficient patrol vehicles, and vehicle and body cameras.

Any organization as large as CPD is bound to have some members who improperly keep confidences among themselves. But the real question is how does leadership promote open dialog within the department and create an environment that effectively manages personnel and reduces potential rule violations.

Reductions in police strength, the absence of effective and redundant training, delays in properly equipping and managing officers have undermined the ability of police to work effectively and with accountability. A Vallas Administration would immediately tackle these failures that begin in the mayor’s office by ensuring the police have the numbers, the equipment, the training and the supervision to do their jobs and reduce crime.

This is not a finance issue, but a leadership issue. Proper funding and equipping of CPD would provide savings to substantially pay for itself. Much of the cost of this could be covered simply by a reduction in overtime (currently ranging from $50 million to $100 million more than when the CPD was last fully staffed) and in lawsuits.

Providing CPD with the proper tools will not solve the root causes of crime. That can only be accomplished by ensuring that all Chicagoans have access to quality schools, employment and occupational training, which I will address in this campaign.

But an effective, properly staffed and equipped police department that is not at odds with the communities it serves, or the mayor’s office, is also essential to making certain all residents can look forward to a safe environment – now and in the future.