During his first campaign for mayor four years ago, Rahm Emanuel kept talking about police.
He noted as often as he could that his uncle had been a cop on Chicago’s north side. He boasted of his role in crafting the Clinton administration’s 1994 crime bill that funded the hiring of 100,000 police officers nationwide.
And, as the centerpiece of his public safety plan, he vowed to find the money to add 1,000 more officers to Chicago’s force. He said this would prevent crime and improve relationships with the community.
“Police officers will become a presence in the neighborhood rather than only available in response to emergency,” he said.
But within weeks of taking office, Emanuel stopped talking about hiring cops. Instead, over the course of his first term, the number of officers on the force dropped from about 10,900 to 10,600. And the mayor responded to violent crime not by investing in community policing but by calling for stricter gun laws and blaming legislators who balked.
The result after four years: crime totals have fallen, as they have across the country. But Chicago still has more violent crime per capita than New York or Los Angeles, with an average of seven people shot every day.
As Emanuel campaigns for reelection, he argues that the city is on the right track. In a speech on public safety Tuesday, he touted his successes and promised to add investments in police staffing, gun control, community relations, and jobs programs.
His challengers and critics counter that for the last four years he’s worked more at managing perceptions of crime than developing strategies to prevent it.