CHICAGO (CBS) — As 2017 draws to a close, Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson is touting a year of positive changes for the department, and laughing off one Cook County commissioner’s suggestion that the U.N. send in troops to help fight violent crime.
Johnson noted shootings and murders both have dropped from 2016, which saw the highest level of homicides in nearly 20 years. Though both shootings and murders are down significantly from 2016, they are still well ahead of the previous 15 years.
The superintendent also laughed off a suggestion from Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin that the United Nations perhaps send in peacekeeping troops to help quell what he called “a quiet genocide” of violent crime in Chicago. Boykin met with a top U.N. official on Thursday to invite United Nations officials to meet with victims of gun violence in Chicago.
“They’ve been able to help in places like Africa and abroad, where they’ve sent troops in and sent forces in to help protect minority and vulnerable populations, and so quite frankly I think the same can be said for here in Chicago,” Boykin said Thursday.
The superintendent called Boykins’ suggestion unrealistic.
“Listen, I appreciate the commissioner’s energy, but I think that first of all the U.N. has no jurisdiction in Chicago, none. I think that that energy will be better spent building bridges and relationships in the city; and with our local partners, state partners, and federal partners here to address violence,” Johnson said.
He also said many of Chicago’s critics are flat out wrong about violence in the city.
“When you look at crime per capita, Chicago isn’t at the top of the list,” he said. “But you look at our reduction numbers; we have 21 percent reduction in shootings this year, 14-15 percent reduction in murders. That’s progress. It’s not success, but we are tamping it down, and if we build on that and get the same reductions in 2018, we’ll be looking pretty good.”
Johnson noted there have been many other improvements at the Chicago Police Department this year, including completion of a plan to equip every officer with a body camera, and new training in use of force and sensitivity.
The city also is moving forward with plans to boost the department’s ranks.
“We’ve hired over 1,100 new police officers,” Johnson said.
Many of those officers are replacing patrol officers who have been promoted or have retired, but the department said they are now halfway toward the goal of increasing the department’s manpower by adding 1,000 new patrol officers to the streets by the end of next year.
Johnson also praised new data-driven strategies and tactics, which he said have contributed to the drop in violent crime from last year.
“With over 100 less murders, and with over 700 less shootings, communities that were once under a cloud of gun violence are beginning to see signs of optimism and hope,” he said.
The superintendent said something that has struck him was 500 kids showing up at the Englewood District station on Halloween for a haunted house.
“That means 500 parents feel comfortable enough to let their kids go interact with the police,” he said.
Johnson’s comments came at a ceremony to swear in more than 100 newly promoted sergeants and lieutenants. The newly promoted officers are now available to immediately report to their respective districts.
The promotions came just days after 55 new police recruits graduated from the academy and reported for duty as patrol officers on Monday.
Johnson said 80 more cadets will graduate from the academy on Sunday. He said the increased manpower and improved analytical tools should help the city keep crime figures on a downward path.