Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson on Tuesday pointed to a sign of progress in an otherwise violent year–250 fewer gunshot victims—as evidence that Chicago’s rising murder rate may soon start coming down.
Chicago’s murder total passed the 400-mark with more than a week left in July. The month ended with the city on pace to top a 2016 murder rate not seen since the 1990’s.
Still, Johnson claims to be encouraged—even though President Donald Trump keeps wondering aloud, “What the hell is going on in Chicago.”
“We have 250 less victims of gun shootings this year. That’s an encouraging sign. If we keep trending in that direction, then in theory, those murders should start coming down,” Johnson said.
Johnson was equally optimistic about changing the culture among Chicago Police officers portrayed by the U.S. Justice Department as poorly trained and supervised and seldom punished for excessive force and civil rights abuses.
That’s even though a newly-released bodycam video shows a young black man being pulled to the ground and kneeled upon by two officers who stopped the man for failing to signal before a turn and having a missing light over his license plate.
“This thing didn’t get messed up overnight and it won’t get fixed overnight….We’re gonna get there,” Johnson said.
At an Organ Donor Awareness Week event outside the Thompson Center, Johnson also talked about the kidney transplant he hopes to receive in the next month from his 25-year-old son.
“He told me one day, ‘Listen. You gave me life, so I want to help improve yours,'” said Johnson, who suffers from a chronic kidney disease.
“I’m proud of him for stepping up. In the African-American community, we are known—especially in the city of Chicago—for taking lives. We should be known for saving lives.”
Police Board President Lori Lightfoot said it’s “encouraging” that the number of shootings are down, but argued that the homicide rate “continues to be at historic highs.”
Lightfoot also acknowledged that Johnson has “worked very hard” to change the culture of the department.
But she said, “We will know we have made substantial progress toward bridging the gap between the… police department and communities of color when the perception of police legitimacy has changed and when … police officers understand that respectful and constitutional policing is every bit as important a tool as their gun and their badge.”