Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson joined Dan & Amy this morning to discuss what can be done to quell the carnage as Chicago incurred its 500th murder victim of 2016 over Labor Day weekend.
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Dan Proft: Good morning. Dan and Amy. So as it’s been widely reported because it’s a national story, Chicago passed 500 homicides in nine months over Labor Day weekend. We’re nearing 3,000 shootings this year alone and while there has been a crime spike in a number of major cities, six of the out the ten biggest American cities have seen double digit increases in crime, in violent crime in 2016 and overall crime is up. But murder declined 6.4% in New York City and Houston saw a 51% drop in violent crime. So there’s something going on in Chicago and to some extent New Orleans, St Louis, Detroit, Baltimore that is not going on in other urban centers like LA and New York and Houston which is similar in size to Chicago and similar demographically, race and so forth. So what’s going on? Well, to help us understand what police are facing we’re happy to be joined by Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson. Superintendent Johnson, thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate it. Eddie Johnson: Good morning. Not a problem. Glad to be here. Dan Proft: So what’s your assessment? What is going on Chicago that’s different say from Chicago or LA or Houston and what can be done about it in the short term? Eddie Johnson: I can say this. In Chicago, it’s not the majority of the city that’s having these issues. We have 22 police districts and out of those 22, you have five that are really driving the violence and out of those five, three of them really are seeing the majority of the gun violence in the city. Those are the places that it’s isolated to for the most part. But as I said time and time again, our violence is really driven by about 1,400 individuals who are repeat gun offenders and those are the individuals that are really driving that crime. Amy Jacobson: Well, how can we get those individuals off the streets? I know if you look at Chicago compared to New York and LA, if you are caught in possession with an illegal weapon, you get one year in jail. In New York, it’s three and a half years. Eddie Johnson: Right, well, I say this. The biggest difference between Chicago and LA and New York is this. LA and New York have real strict sentencing laws as opposed to Chicago. So in New York if you get caught with a gun the first time around, you do three and a half years in prison no matter what. In LA they have a thing called "Use a Gun and You’re Done" which simply means if you use a gun in a commission of a crime, you get ten years tacked on for spraying it, for firing it, for using it. So you get – there’s multipliers on there. Those two cities have stricter gun sentencing laws so if we can get that that would help us hold these repeat offenders more accountable. Dan Proft: FOP President Dean Angelo has also said that what Chicago police need is more Chicago police, more manpower and last week there was an indicating from the mayor’s office that finally more manpower may be forthcoming. What’s your assessment of the manpower levels in the department and the need for more officers? Is that something that would aid the effort? Eddie Johnson: Well, I tell you this, Dan. There’s probably not a police executive in the world that would turn down increased manpower but I will say this. I let the mayor talk about that in the coming weeks but he and I have discussed that quite frequently. More than manpower, we have to ensure that we use the manpower that we have efficiently. That’s part of it also. Additional resources is always a good thing but we have to make sure we’re doing the right thing with the people that we have. Amy Jacobson: Now, I watched your interview last night on NBC Nightly News and you said it’s not a police issue. This is a society issue. Can you explain? Eddie Johnson: Yeah, the police don’t cause the crime. Crime is caused by a lot of different variables. You have a lot of social ills that contribute to crime. The three police districts that I was speaking of that drive most of our violence are impoverished neighborhoods. They need economic support, jobs, better education, housing, but more importantly in a lot of these neighborhoods we need parents to step up and be parents because all this stuff starts at home. You may be living in a tough situation but at the end of the day you should still know right from wrong and a lot of these people do. They just choose to do wrong. We need parents to step up to be parents but more importantly we need fathers to step up and be fathers to allow these young men that are out here doing the wrong thing. Dan Proft: I completely agree with that sentiment and that’s not something that the government can force. That’s not something that police can be responsible for. You can’t raise children. The job is law enforcement and I wonder what your assessment is of the civilian political leadership of the city because look, at the end of the day police are also a function of the civilian political leadership. You can only do what the political leadership allows you to do to a large extent so that means the mayor and the city council. This report that was issued earlier in the year that talked about systemic racism and from things that I hear did not do anything to enhance morale on the force. I wonder what grade or what assessment you give the civilian political leadership in helping you do the job that you’re charged to do. Eddie Johnson: That’s a good point because right now not just in Chicago but all across the country, law enforcement is being scrutinized like never before but in Chicago specially, the level of disrespect that you see out there towards police officers from the community it’s just – I’ve never seen it like this. There’s a lot for the everyday officer to deal with out there but now the mayor has given us a lot of support. Of course in the beginning of the year we got off to a rough start after the Laquan McDonald video and the changing of state laws concerning how we document our interactions with civilians but the officers out there are working hard but I have to be honest and say that they are concerned that they be the next viral video because their status. They’re people too. They’re not robots and they have families to support so they are concerned about the support they get from not just the elected officials but the community at large. Amy Jacobson: Yeah, I know that you have a lot of support among the rank and file. All the police officers that I know really respect you. They like you. Even over Labor Day weekend you were out patrolling during the three day holiday weekend and what did you see? Eddie Johnson: Yeah, I was out there and I think it’s good to be out there. That’s actually one of the things I like to do most is still be out there with the troops but what I saw was officers working hard but again we get groups of individuals out there mocking police and just being disrespectful and that makes the job difficult. Anybody that thinks being a police officer is easy, that’s because they’ve never done it. The majority of your police force in Chicago are professional and are out there trying to do the right thing. Now do we have some issues? Yeah, we do. I would never try to pretend like we’re a perfect agency because we’re not but my challenge is to root out the individuals that don’t want to do the job correctly and there’s not that many of them but there are those that do that. When I was out there this weekend I just saw tons of people everywhere and like I said, again I backed up some officers on street stops or traffic stops and there is a sermon out there with the public regarding the police that they don’t have to do what the police tells them to do and that’s just simply not the case. Dan Proft: All right. We’re talking to Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson and I wonder if some individuals that the television cameras love to go cover, listen to every utterance and report it to the public that you’re describing, I wonder how they’re impacting the job. You have the curious argument made by the likes of Father Pfleger and others including Black Lives Matter that on the one hand they want police to be defanged and they don’t want to abide what police tell me as you suggested and on the other hand they’re calling for the governor to call a state of emergency and bring in the National Guard or some kind of federal assistance. I wonder how you square the circle with some of what you see and hear from so called community leaders? Eddie Johnson: Well, one thing that I started doing from day one, myself and First Deputy at the time John Escalante was we reached out to quite a few community leaders and activists. I personally sat down and spoke to quite a few leaders of Black Lives Matters and I’ll tell you, I may not agree with everything that they say but they are Chicagoans and they deserve to have their voices heard. I think conversation and dialogue is what it’s going to take the trust you have in them but like Father Pfleger. He’s been a huge supporter of mine since I was a command in a city district but in terms of the National Guard, I’ll say this. We don’t need the National Guard here. The National Guard, they aren’t trained to deal with domestic issues such as ones we’re having here. Now if they want to bring in federal monies to help some of these impoverished neighborhoods, that’s fine but I think the police department you have here is equipped to deal with the environment that we have now. We just need to come to some type of understanding between the police and the community that we serve. Amy Jacobson: So to make that clear you do not believe we need the National Guard in Chicago say on the weekends? Eddie Johnson: No, no. Like I said, the National Guard, they’re not trained to deal with domestic issues so I wouldn’t be in support of that at all. Dan Proft: Not that federal law matters in Chicago but you also have a federal law that dates back to the presidency of Rutherford B Hayes that says federal troops shall not be used for domestic policing so you have that little matter as well that I know the likes of Father Pfleger and others don’t care about but it’s there. It’s federal law. So it’s something else to consider. He is Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson. Superintendent Johnson, thanks so much for joining us. Be safe out there and keep up the good work. Eddie Johnson: Okay. Thank you for having me. I’ll come back some time. Have a wonderful day. Dan Proft: Thank you. Amy Jacobson: Thank you and he joined us on our TurnKey.Pro AnswerLine.