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Mitchell: Chicago cops need extra power to go after gun offenders

Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson talked about Chicago violence during a panel discussion Monday at the City Club of Chicago. | Lou Foglia/Sun-Times

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If police officials had the names of 1,400 ISIS terrorists whom they were convinced would attack people in the Chicago area, what do you expect to happen?

Very few people would argue that police should round up all 1,400 individuals and lock them up. But most people wouldn’t want these terrorists roaming the streets until they were caught attempting to kill people, either.

I don’t care what your political views are, no one wants another massacre like the one in Orlando, Florida, where a lone gunman killed 49 people at a gay nightclub.

In the aftermath of the Orlando horror, questions are being raised about the effectiveness of the security policies in place.

It is wrong to profile people based on race, ethnicity, gender or mental disabilities. But it is reasonable to expect that when someone ends up on a “watch list,” that person shouldn’t be able to walk into a gun shop and buy a murder machine.

To protect American lives, federal law enforcement uses its resources to identify and stop terrorists before they commit the crime. When a tragedy like Orlando occurs, it is looked upon as a failure.

Chicago is facing a similar challenge.


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Police here have a “strategic subject” list with the names of about 1,400 people who are allegedly driving the city’s homicides.

Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson brought up the “strategic subject” list during his remarks Monday at the City Club of Chicago where he joined Cleopatra Pendleton, the Rev. Michael Pfleger and Kim Foxx, Democratic candidate for Cook County State’s Attorney, on a panel about the city’s homicides.

According to Johnson, 80 percent of the 66 people shot over the recent Memorial Day weekend were on the list. And 100 percent of the offenders were also on the list.

“That tells you right there that we have identified the people most likely to engage in this activity, but what do we do about it?” Johnson asked rhetorically.

“Since January 1st, we have removed one illegal gun per hour every day,” he told the packed audience of policymakers, elected officials, business owners and educators.

“It’s completely unacceptable. We have to do a better job of holding people accountable,” he said.

Pam Bosley, whose son Terrell Bosley was killed in a still unsolved shooting in a church parking lot in 2006, asked the question that weighs most heavily on my heart: “If CPD knows who the shooters are, why are the shooters still on the street?”

“The reason why the shooters are still there, we identified them, but we can’t pluck them off the street until they actually do something that we can arrest them for,” Johnson said.

Fair, but not good enough.

When a gunman uses a high-powered assault rifle to shoot a 21-year-old victim in front of a church — on a Sunday afternoon no less — and a 3-year-old is shot while sitting in a car with his father, it is about as bad as it gets.

In some neighborhoods, people are too afraid to let their kids play outside while the perpetrators are running the streets.

Not even one of the 1,400 on the watch list should be able to take a breath of air without a police officer seeing it.

In fact, the Chicago Police Department should have as much intel on these individuals as FBI officials have on ISIS sympathizers.

Will some of these officers run afoul of civil liberties? Probably.

But I’d rather see the city defending an aggressive policing strategy than to see more innocent victims of gun violence.

We shouldn’t let these domestic terrorists take over our neighborhoods anymore than we would let foreign terrorists force us to live in fear.

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