CHICAGO (CBS) — As city officials scramble to respond to a weekend that saw 66 people shot in Chicago, activist priest Rev. Michael Pfleger said the relationship between police and the community is the worst he’s ever seen.
Calling the city a “disaster area” when it comes to gun violence, Pfleger also took President Donald Trump to task for criticizing the city’s crime problems without doing enough to help, and said elected leaders at all levels — including the mayor and governor — need to be held accountable.
Pfleger, who only a few weeks ago walked arm-in-arm with Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson in an anti-violence march that shut down the Dan Ryan Expressway, said the city’s elected officials need to be held accountable for a lack of resources in South Side and West Side neighborhoods plagued by gun violence.
In particular, he said the neighborhoods where most of the violence happens in Chicago are facing poverty, double-digit unemployment, underfunded schools, a lack of economic development, and too few options for ex-cons when they are released from prison.
“It’s on every level – the elected officials, I think the law enforcement, and the community – everybody has to do their part,” he said.
Pfleger also said the Police Department desperately needs to improve its relationship with the community.
“I think the division between police and law enforcement and the community is worse than I’ve ever seen it,” he said.
The longtime anti-violence crusader also noted the homicide clearance rate at the Chicago Police Department dropped to an all-time low last year. According to an analysis by the Chicago Sun-Times, detectives solved only 17.5 percent of the murders in Chicago last year.
“There’s no consequence. You have a majority of a chance of getting off with a murder than getting caught, and the combination of all that makes it a deadly city,” Pfleger said.
While other activists who shut down Lake Shore Drive last week for an anti-violence march demanded the resignations of Johnson and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Pfleger said it will be up to voters to decide that in February.
“I think if the city of Chicago wants him to resign, they can resign him next February,” Pfleger said.
Pfleger said, when people go to the polls to vote for the next governor in November, and to vote for the next mayor in February, voters need to decide who will make the biggest difference in Chicago. He said elected leaders at all levels need to answer for the city’s ongoing crime problems.
“I think for too long, we have given a pass to people – both Democrats and Republicans – and not held them accountable,” he said. “I think there’s aldermen that have not been held accountable. I think the mayor. I think there is a major movement in this city, saying do we want something different? And what are the people running for office going to promise? Not some idle election campaign literature, I’m talking about what are the concrete things they’re going to do?”
The South Side pastor also lambasted President Donald Trump, who repeatedly has called out Chicago’s gun violence, while doing little to help, other than moving 20 additional ATF agents in Chicago last year.
Pfleger said, if Trump is serious, he should visit Chicago to figure out what federal resources it needs to stem the violence.
“If you care about Chicago, come on out to Chicago. Come on out to Chicago, hear what needs to be done, and give us the resources. Chicago is a disaster area. Just like you’re sending resources to where there’s fires, where there’s hurricanes, we’ve got a fire and a hurricane in Chicago. It’s called violence,” Pfleger said. “So come in here if you’re serious, and bring the resources. If you’re not serious, then stop talking about it, because blood is on our streets. Our children are dying.”
The reverend said he suspects Trump only wants to embarrass former President Barack Obama’s hometown.
“If that’s your motive, fine. Well, then, you can embarrass him by coming in and making a difference. Come in and bring the resources to help Chicago out,” he added. “I don’t know what his motive is, but I’m tired of his senseless tweets, and comments, and rallies, but never doing a thing to really help Chicago.”