Mayor Rahm Emanuel acknowledged Wednesday that he will have to “work double hard” to convince minorities to apply for the April 1-2 police exam because of the U.S. Justice Department’s scathing indictment of the Chicago Police Department.

The report portrayed a biased police department stuck in the Stone Age—from training that relies on 35-year-old videos to outdated pursuit tactics that imperil suspects, officers and innocent bystanders.

It laid bare years of civil rights violations by officers accused of verbally abusing minorities, shooting at people who pose no threat and Tasering others, simply because they refused to follow verbal commands.

On Wednesday, Emanuel acknowledged that his unprecedented minority outreach campaign aimed at diversifying the police department at a time of high crime and deep distrust just got more difficult.

Blacks and Hispanics may not want to join a department branded as having such significant racial bias.

“We’re gonna have to work double-hard to show the police department is a different police department” than the one unmasked by the feds, the mayor said.

“That’s why, both with the last recruitment and also in this recruitment, we’re making an extra effort to reach out to communities of color….You saw Friday’s press conference. The superintendent talked about it being the most racially-diverse leadership ever in the history of the Chicago Police Department. And we’ve made a special effort in both marketing and advertising. Even [last] weekend, there was a different recruitment effort.”

Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), chairman of the City Council’s Black Caucus, said he’s “worried about” a fall-off in minority applicants caused by the blistering federal report triggered by the police shooting of Laquan McDonald.

But he’s hoping African-Americans seize the moment to, as the recruiting posters say, “Be Part of the Change.”

“It has been a hostile environment. It was not very encouraging for those of color. But with the Justice Department shining the light on it, it’s an opportunity for change. No better time than right now,” Sawyer said, on his way into a recruiting session for minority applicants.

Deborah Farmer, the African-American woman who is spearheading this year’s outreach campaign, said there is no discussion of extending the Jan. 31 deadline for applying for the police exam to mitigate the impact of the Justice Department report.

“The deadline is two weeks away. We’re trucking along. We’ve had a couple of events since the report. I can’t say that we’ve seen any fall-out or even negative comments on social media,” Farmer said.

“The interest has been pretty high from what we’re seeing. People have come to our events. We don’t say anything [about the report]. It hasn’t come up. People have come with one goal in mind: to apply.”

In 2015, an unprecedented outreach campaign to diversify the Police Department attracted 14,200 applicants for an April 16 police exam. Of those, 29 percent were African American and 39 percent were Hispanic. Other minorities also took the exam. The 71 percent minority showing was a 13 percent improvement from the previous outreach campaign.

This time around, Farmer’s goal is to do even better at a time when Chicago cops fearful of being captured on the next YouTube video are in a defensive crouch blamed, in part, for a 60 percent surge in homicides.

Emanuel has spent the last year trying to stay a step ahead of the Justice Department.

But the mayor’s frenzied reforms were criticized by the feds as either too little too late or so rushed as to be either dangerous or detrimental, as in the case of Tasers without training.

On Wednesday, the mayor said he has begun the process of implementing all of the sweeping reforms recommended by the Justice Department.

“You can immediately see it. On Monday, we brought together 911 operators, fire and police to have a single training on how to handle mental health issues. So….the 911 [call taker] knows how to describe it as a mental health issue—not a criminal issue, so you’re not going in with an expectation” of trouble, Emanuel said.

“That was also true about…the community policing conference we had…As I said before, we’re gonna continue to do the right things for Chicago. We’re on the road to reform. There’s no U-turn here. And we’re gonna implement the suggestions they have, then work with the next administration, the next Department of Justice on pursuing what is obviously a consent decree in that area.”

Also on Wednesday, the mayor was asked why he believes most Chicago homeowners decided to take a pass on the city’s offer of a token $20 million property tax rebate, ignoring the city’s aggressive campaign aimed at convincing people to apply.

The same thing happened under former Mayor Richard M. Daley.

“It’s smarter to do, what I thought was the right thing: To get the exemption on the front-end versus paying it and then, asking for a reclaim,” the mayor said of his failed plan to soften the blow of a record property tax increase by doubling the homeowners exemption.

“It’s a process we tried to simplify. We tried to do different things. But at the end of the day, it’s the difference between doing something after the fact vs. simultaneously on the front-end….Twice now, the city has tried the rebate and the take by the homeowners is on the lower end of what is expected.”

 

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