Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson on Wednesday emphatically denied that he’s presiding over a police department “in crisis” in a city “reaching a state of lawlessness” as his predecessor Garry McCarthy claimed on national television.
“Superintendent McCarthy put a lot of good things in place that we’re still utilizing, and he served the city well. But I disagree with characterizing us as a department in crisis because we’re not,” Johnson said after joining Mayor Rahm Emanuel at police headquarters to welcome 135 newly promoted detectives.
“We did get off to a rocky start in 2016 for a number of reasons. But we stabilized things. So now, we’re putting things in place to focus on fighting this crime. That’s what our focus is on. Not what people are saying but about this crime-fighting.”
In a “60 Minutes” segment broadcast Sunday, McCarthy skewered the police department he once led and the mayor who fired him.
He claimed that the 80 percent decline in street stops and a precipitous drop in arrests even as homicides and shootings surged to levels not seen since the 1990s were evidence of a police department “in crisis.”
“When you have activity falling off the way it is and crime skyrocketing, that’s a huge problem,” McCarthy said.
When correspondent Bill Whitaker suggested that there was a policing crisis, McCarthy responded, “When people are dying, yes, there’s crisis. No two ways about it.”
“The police activity is horrific. Honestly. And there’s not an excuse that could be made in my book,” he said. “The noncompliance of the law is becoming legitimized. And the police are on their heels. . . . We’re reaching a state of lawlessness.”
Johnson argued just the opposite, pointing to a 10 percent increase in gun arrests in 2016 and a 20 percent hike in gun recoveries and turn-ins.
“That doesn’t say to me that police officers are holding back. That tells me that they’re doing the right things and stopping the right people,” Johnson said.
McCarthy’s remarks undoubtedly infuriated the mayor, who fired McCarthy in the unrelenting furor over the Laquan McDonald shooting video. But publicly, the mayor chose to avoid engaging in a war of words with his former superintendent.
“He served five years here in Chicago. I know he is moving on. My focus is on the future . . . My views are to make sure that 2017 not only is not a repeat of 2016, [but] to show that what happened in 2016 is not the Chicago I know and see,” the mayor said.
Although Chicago had more homicides in 2016 than New York and Los Angeles combined, Emanuel tried to portray Chicago’s problems as part of a nationwide trend.
“Baltimore has a higher homicide rate than Chicago. Memphis is up. San Diego is up. Phoenix is up. We’re all experiencing something different,” the mayor said.
“I’m not proud of what happened in 2016. Supt. [Johnson] knows this. We met this morning . . . to talk about what needs to be different in 2017.”
Emanuel has embarked on a two-year hiring blitz to add 970 police officers over and above attrition. But he has acknowledged that it won’t matter how many new officers the city hires if officers continue to lay back.
On Wednesday, the mayor made yet another plea for the “pro-active policing” he called a “deterrent” to gun violence.
“The reforms that are gonna be made cannot be seen as being a threat to police officers’ jobs, but as helping them in doing their job. Investments in body cameras helps them in doing their job. Additional training to achieve the highest standards and consistent training helps them do their jobs. Every officer now with a Taser helps them,” the mayor said.
“If this gets into acrimonial finger-pointing, we’re not listening to each other. We’re not appreciating each other. And more importantly, then people are going to go into their corners and the only winners in this are gonna be the gang members.”
Earlier this week, President-elect Donald Trump sent out one of his infamous tweets, this time suggesting that if Emanuel can’t get Chicago’s murder rate under control, he “must ask for federal help!”
Trump did not specify what type of federal help he was prepared to offer to a city where he owns a massive riverfront hotel and condominium.
The President-elect also neglected to mention that Emanuel has already discussed federal assistance with Trump during a meeting Dec. 7 in Trump Tower in downtown Manhattan.
Emanuel not only urged Trump not to deport the children of illegal immigrants — he made a pitch for federal assistance to boost police hiring and youth mentoring and summer jobs programs that Emanuel hopes will stop the bloodshed on Chicago streets.
On Wednesday, the mayor once again welcomed federal help — for everything from prosecuting gun crimes to rebuilding inner-city neighborhoods and restoring devastating cuts to summer jobs programs that have forced the city to pick up the slack.
“I would welcome a federal partner — not just to the police department — but to the individuals and communities that are most affected by gun violence. They need investments and the federal government has a big purse and a big role to play in that investment,” he said.