Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson has been vocal, especially in recent weeks, about his frustration with state lawmakers not passing legislation to stiffen penalties for “repeat gun offenders.”
Johnson hinted at a cause of some of that frustration during a news conference Friday to announce dozens of arrests in overnight raids.
“They promised me that we would have something done in January. We’re at the end of February,” Johnson said.
He went on to mention that state Rep. Elgie Sims Jr. and state Sen. Kwame Raoul, both Chicago Democrats, “are crafting the language for a bill, and I know that they are supportive of CPD.”
“I’m just counting on them to push it along because we need that,” Johnson said.
Chicago Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said Johnson “was told in his conversations to expect a draft to be introduced in January,” though he didn’t say who offered assurances to Johnson about the time frame.
Sims told the Chicago Sun-Times “there were some discussions about hopefully some developments” on a piece of legislation by January, but “I don’t know about ‘promised.’”
Sims, Raoul, state Sen. Tony Munoz, D-Chicago, and state Rep. Mike Zalewski, D-Riverside, have been working on legislation to curb the city’s shootings since the fall of 2016.
No date has been set for any legislation to be introduced, Sims said.
“Everybody’s trying to do what’s in the best interest of having a package that makes communities safe,” Sims said. “The legislative session is just starting.”
The four lawmakers are taking the long view on any legislation and not looking for a quick fix, he said.
“We’re making sure [the legislation] is not just about incarcerating individuals but also about improving public safety,” Sims said. “The goal is not just to pass something. You want to pass something that is good for public safety.”
In an emailed statement Saturday, spokesman Matt McGrath said Mayor Rahm Emanuel felt positive about the work being done in Springfield.
“The mayor has made no secret of the fact that he believes tougher sentences for gun crimes are an essential component of our comprehensive approach to public safety, and we’re optimistic about progress in Springfield,” McGrath said.
Johnson, however, preached urgency Friday, less than two weeks after the city saw three children — all 12 or younger — fatally shot within a matter of days on the South and West sides.
“To be a leader with any effective decision making, and you live in this city and you are responsible for these communities that are being ravaged by this gun violence, if you’re OK every day sitting by, watching these people die, and that’s OK with you, then good luck with that,” Johnson said. “But if you care at all, you should be helping the city do something about this violence.”
Sims said Johnson has been “very active” in the legislative drafting process.
“The superintendent is particularly passionate about this subject,” Sims said. “He wants the community to be safe, and I share that concern.”
Munoz, Raoul and Zalewski could not be reached for comment.
Johnson said Friday that while long-term solutions such as mentoring and economic development are crucial in the effort to reduce shootings, the families of murder victims are more concerned with repeat gun offenders going in and out of custody.
“Right now, when I go into homes on the South and West sides of Chicago, those mothers aren’t asking me about long-term solutions, ‘What are you going to do about the economic development of this neighborhood?’ They don’t ask me about that,” Johnson said.
“They want to know, ‘How come that guy that killed my son is still out there? And you all know who it is, I know who it is. Why did you all lock him up, and now he’s right back out on the street?’ They want to know the answer to that.”
Seven people were fatally shot in Chicago Wednesday, making it the deadliest day of 2017 so far. A Sun-Times analysis of city crime data found it was the 21st time since 2001 that at least seven people were killed in a single day.
After Trump threatened in a Tweet last month to “send in the Feds!” 20 additional agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were reassigned to Chicago.
Emanuel recently traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with newly confirmed U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and discuss “what might be done to combat the shootings and bring back proactive community policing,” according to a Justice Department spokesman.
“It’s amazing to me that we don’t get more help, but CPD will keep doing its part, and we’ll keep taking these bad guys off the streets,” Johnson said.