Mayor Rahm Emanuel has a lot of ground to cover in his speech Thursday night on Chicago violence.
How many questions will he answer, and what elephants in the room will he ignore?
We’ll know more starting at 6 p.m. Thursday, when he delivers his speech to what is likely to be a supportive crowd — it’s invitation-only — at Malcolm X College.
Here are some things to look for:
1. The price tag for his plan to bolster the Chicago Police Department is about $138 million over two years. Will the mayor be any more specific about how to pay for that? He’s ruled out increases in sales, property or gas taxes — but you can drive a truck through that loophole. There are plenty of other taxes and fees he could increase.
2. How much does he criticize or focus on absentee fathers in the African-American community? In previewing his speech to select group, the mayor was seen as perhaps too harsh, talking, for instance, about how in all his visits in hospital rooms or at the homes of families of children wounded or killed, he had met only one black father. He already was getting some pushback on this, and after the controversy over the delayed release of the Laquan McDonald video, some black leaders say he lacks the moral authority to be talking on this topic.
3. How does he persuade Chicago Police officers out of the defensive crouch many have been in since the McDonald video? Jason Van Dyke, the officer seen on tape shooting the 17-year-old McDonald 16 times, now faces murder charges. Other officers are said to be less and less proactive in their crime-fighting as they fear being caught on the next YouTube video. They’ve also got the U.S. Department of Justice looking over their shoulder. Also making Emanuel’s job harder is that on June 30, an increase in health insurance premiums will kick in, giving a stronger incentive for older officers to retire. In the past, retirements have averaged 200 to 300 a year — some think the insurance costs to make that amount double. One factor could be the 112 additional sergeants who are part of the hiring surge — will they have a mandate to get tough on officers who are holding back?
4. Emanuel also has to reach out to aldermen who are justifiably skeptical of the mayor’s ability to deliver on the promise of filling vacancies and adding to the force. When he ran for his first term, he promised 1,000 new cops, but quickly backtracked, hitting that number by disbanding special units and shifting others off desk duty. Aldermen think it has been a shell game, and it’s up to the mayor to let them know it will be different this time.
5. How will he get all those officers trained? Hiring enough officers to hit his targets means ramping up the CPD academy to add 100 new officers every month. Does it have enough capacity, especially since it also is handling the required de-escalation training existing officers now must go through. Emanuel has long wanted to replace the old training academy, which he sees as inadequate, with an ultra-modern facility near the 911 center. Perhaps this will be his time to make another push for that.
6. Are there any new initiatives he announces to help rebuild trust between citizens and the police? Without trust, citizens don’t cooperate in solving crimes.
7. Emanuel also could reveal more details on the civilian review board that will choose the permanent chief of COPA — the Civilian Office of Police Accountability that has been proposed to replace the Independent Police Review Authority. Though COPA’s particulars are being wrangled even now, the civilian review board remains a mystery. Will its members be elected or appointed? Will Emanuel choose a majority?
8. As important as influx of new officers is how and where they will be deployed. Will the hundreds of new officers be distributed evenly across the city? Or will the mayor respond to the complaints of some specific aldermen for additional help in their areas. Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) has long sought more officers in his Far South Side ward, but Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) in Lincoln Park has been concerned about a recent surge of violent crime in her area. And aldermen in Jefferson Park, while negotiating their support for the recently-passed utility tax, extracted a commitment for more overnight resources in their area.