Chicago mayoral candidate Kam Buckner would invest both in police and alternatives: ‘We can do both’

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Chicago mayoral candidate and Illinois state Rep. Kam Buckner unveiled a public safety plan Tuesday that he said will invest in both law enforcement and community resources as the city’s crime problem becomes a chief issue of the race.

Among Buckner’s proposals are filling vacant positions in the Chicago Police Department and hiring more detectives to try to get through the department’s case backlog — a promise he made despite the city’s recent struggle with recruiting and retaining officers. To that end, Buckner insisted across Chicago’s neighborhoods, there are worthy candidates who simply need to be enticed to apply for the “best big city cop job in America” but did not elaborate on specifics.

As of March, Chicago police had about 1,100 vacancies, Superintendent David Brown said at the time.

Buckner said he would create an “Internet Intelligence Unit” to monitor crimes that are planned online as well as a “Youth Engagement Superintendent” to work with Chicago Public Schools and the Park District to add programming for youth.

Who’s in, who’s out and who’s undecided in the Chicago mayor’s race ]

“We cannot spend $1.9 billion dollars on CPD every year and not see results,” Buckner said. “Families deserve answers and communities deserve to feel safe.”

Nodding to the tensions between police and communities of color, Buckner said he would pass the “Anjanette Young Ordinance,” a sweeping legislation to overhaul how police raids are conducted following a botched raid of a Black woman’s home in 2019. That plan is currently stalled in City Council, without Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s support.

“As a Black man who for the first time as a 16-year-old kid was told by an officer that I ‘fit a description’ and who was told that same thing as a 35-year-old man, I’m well aware of the necessity of rebuilding trust between our communities and the police,” Buckner said.

To work on that trust, Buckner said he would double the violence prevention office’s funds as well as require Chicago police to produce body camera footage within 30 days and publish its clearance rates. He also would support passage of the “Peace Book” ordinance, an anti-violence plan put forth by the activist group GoodKids MadCity that calls for alternative solutions to policing and incarceration.

When asked about whether his support for the Peace Book proposal — crafted by community organizers who support reallocating money from law enforcement — conflicts with his calls to beef up Chicago police’s ranks, Buckner said that’s a “false choice.”

“We can do both,” Buckner said. “Much of our problem lies in the fact that we are creating these narratives that we can only do one thing.”

The current field of declared candidates for the 2023 mayoral race includes Southwest Side Ald. Raymond Lopez, 15th, businessman Willie Wilson.

Lightfoot hasn’t formally declared her candidacy for a second term but is expected to announce her bid in the coming weeks. Former CPS CEO Paul Vallas is expected to announce a campaign soon.

Chicago mayoral candidate and state Rep. Kam Buckner, back row from left, joined House Speaker Emanuel "Chris" Welch, Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Chicago police Superintendent David Brown, at the microphone, before Pritzker signed a bill restricting the sale and possession of so-called ghost guns on May 18. (Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune)

Buckner unveiled his plans on crime after another violent weekend. Lightfoot has faced much criticism over Chicago’s gun violence. The city experienced major crime spikes in 2020 and 2021, with last year being the most violent in decades. Her onetime top public safety adviser joined a prominent alderman last year in declaring Chicago a “city in crisis” due to the violence. Crime has modestly decreased so far in 2022 but remains alarmingly high. Downtown has also experienced a surge in violence that included a teenager being fatally shot near The Bean in Millennium Park in May.

Lightfoot has repeatedly acknowledged that many Chicagoans don’t feel safe, a dynamic that threatens public safety, residents’ mental health and the city’s economy, and she has repeatedly said her administration is working on the problem.

But Lightfoot has also rebutted criticism of her administration and Brown by blaming the spike on a national wave that occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic and pointing fingers at the courts and prosecutors for being too lenient with repeat offenders.

Meanwhile, at the Chicago Police Department’s graduation and promotion ceremony on Tuesday, Lightfoot noted it’s officially summertime in Chicago which is “historically a time of challenge,” a reference to violent crime that spikes in the summer months.

Lightfoot highlighted a decrease in homicides and shootings from 2021, though she added that it’s too early to do a “victory lap.” She also praised detectives for solving homicides. Lightfoot referred to CPD as “the best damn police department in the country” but encouraged officers to embrace the need for reform because “trust-based” relationships with residents will help them solve crime.

“Public safety has to be a team sport. It’s got to be each and every one of us asking ourselves every day, what more can we do? How can I step up and do my part?” Lightfoot said. “That’s how we make the police successful and not the fall guy.”

ayin@chicagotribune.com

gpratt@chicagotribune.com

via Chicago Tribune

May 31, 2022 at 06:14PM

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