Updated 12/05/12 – 6:20 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – Mayor Rahm Emanuel says Chicago police are making strong moves to confront continuing city violence—which has included violent attacks at funerals.
The mayor expressed anger that people have been shooting and carrying guns at gang-member funerals.
“The police department is going to change the way they deal with gang funerals,” he said. “If you cannot respect a place of worship, at a time of a funeral, we are going to show a different type of attitude.”
The funerals will be treated as “gang events,” with mourners being searched and patted down, among other security measures.
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Just last week, 21-year-old gang member Sherman Miller was slain on the steps of St. Columbanus Church, at the funeral of another gang member.
“Gang funerals are going to be treated different, because there’s no respect shown,” the mayor said.
The new tactics were on display Tuesday at Miller’s funeral, with police out in force, carrying automatic weapons.
But the plan has drawn some mixed reactions.
Rev. Corey Brooks, pastor of New Beginnings Church, has been on a mission to build a $15 million community center for the Englewood and Woodlawn neighborhoods, as part of an effort to reduce violence in those communities.
He’s even camped out on the roof of a shuttered motel to raise the money to buy and demolish it, and then walked across the country to raise money to build a community center where the motel once stood.
But he said he’s “a little concerned” about the mayor’s plan.
“I’m hoping it won’t escalate to more violence,” he said.
Brooks preached Tuesday at Miller’s funeral, and at the funeral where Miller was murdered.
“My biggest fear is those individuals are going to get just more hostile. They’re already angry, and I’m hoping that it just won’t escalate even to more anger, and then you have confrontations between police and guys from the streets,” Brooks said.
But Police Supt. Garry McCarthy, in an interview on the CBS 2 News at 6 p.m., defended the new tactics, and said police are always careful about any potentially hostile situation.
“We’re always cautious if we’re getting into some sort of a confrontational situation,” he said. “I’m not worried about tension. I’m worried about people getting holes in them.”
“This is beyond unacceptable; at a church, at a funeral,” he added.
He said if there’s potential gang violence at any public event – whether it’s a funeral, or a sporting event – “We’re going to make sure that we set the tone, we have to change this culture. We can’t accept it.”
Charles Childs, the funeral director who oversaw the funeral where Miller was killed, said the mayor has little choice.
“You would think funerals were off-limits to additional violence; but as it has become, nothing’s off limits,” he said.
Brooks said, if we could stop the murders, we wouldn’t be worrying about violence at funerals. But, ultimately, he said he supports whatever protects Chicagoans so that no one gets killed – on the streets, or at funerals.
Emanuel admitted frustration that the city’s overall crime rate is down, while shootings and homicides are rising.
He said police McCarthy’s shakeup among top commanders on Wednesday is meant to help address that problem.