Vallas unveils crime-fighting plan to reverse ‘utter breakdown of law and order’

Mayoral challenger says he would fire Police Supt. David Brown, fill 1,600 police vacancies and push “resources to the district level.”

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Chicago Mayoral candidate Paul Vallas attends a Mayoral candidate forum at Temple Sholom of Chicago, Wednesday evening, Nov. 9, 2022.

Chicago mayoral candidate Paul Vallas on Monday outlined his public safety plan.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times file

Decrying the “utter breakdown of law and order” in Chicago, mayoral challenger Paul Vallas on Monday unveiled a sweeping plan to fill 1,600 police vacancies within two years, take the handcuffs off demoralized officers and stop “brazen” criminals from terrorizing residents.

It starts with firing Police Supt. David Brown and his leadership team and ends with “pushing resources to the district level,” restoring “beat integrity” and using the $100 million the CTA spends each year on private security to add about 700 new officers.

That would be enough to have a “police presence at every CTA station and platform” and still have undercover officers riding trains. But it would require the city to hire 2,300 new officers at a time when veteran officers are retiring faster than the city can hire their replacements.

Vallas said he believes he can reduce the exodus of officers within two years, maybe sooner, as he did when he was former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s budget director during the early 1990s, when murder rates soared to 947 a year.

He argued that the hiring surge is required to ease a shortage of officers that has left half of “high-priority” 911 calls with no car available to respond.

Although Mayor Lori Lightfoot claims to be making progress on issues that matter most to Chicago voters, “no matter how she tries to spin it, violent crime is getting worse,” Vallas said.

“We’re gonna exceed 700 murders for the third year in a row. We’ve now seen our 65th school-age child killed. We’ve had 46 mass shootings. ... Car thefts are averaging a mind-boggling 100 a day. Strong-armed robberies every single day. They pistol-whipped a woman just for amusement. It’s blatant,” Vallas said.

“There are not enough police cars to respond to 911 priority calls. The officers we do have are demoralized and handcuffed. There is no incentive to engage in proactive policing. And the criminals know it, and they’re becoming bolder. There is an utter breakdown of law and order,” he said.

Lightfoot campaign spokesperson Christina Freundlich said Vallas “has been the mouthpiece for the FOP for years” and it’s “no surprise” that his crime-fighting plan “looks like it was written” by union President John Catanzara.

In addition to cleaning house at Chicago Police headquarters “on day one,” Vallas’ plan calls for:

• Restoring officers to a “normal and predictable” work schedule instead of making them work a string of 12-hour shifts and canceling days off on holidays and whenever crime spikes.

• Waiving Chicago’s residency requirement for veteran officers “in good standing” with at least 15 years on the job and for police recruits until they complete their 18-month probationary period. Vallas, who served as an unpaid adviser to the Fraternal Order of Police negotiating team, also cracked the door open to eliminating the residency rule entirely after extensive discussions with all city unions.

• Streamlining the process for qualified and experienced officers to transfer to CPD from other departments and inviting officers who have left over the last three years to return to CPD with the same seniority they had when they left. Vallas would also create a CPD Reserve of officers who left the force to become firefighters or accept other jobs.

• Rebuilding the ranks of detectives to “10% of overall staffing” and supplementing the detective division with retired officers working as analysts to help raise clearance rates for homicides and shootings and protect crime victims and witnesses.

• Using helicopters and drones to stop carjackings and vehicle thefts, and eliminating a foot chase policy “so convoluted and restrictive” it has literally turned into a “no-chase policy.”

• Establishing a “well-resourced, CTA Police Transit unit” run by “the equivalent of a district commander” and staffed by 700 police officers whose salaries would be bankrolled by the $100 million a year Vallas believes the CTA is “wasting” on private security.

• Ending the “friends and family” promotions practices, known as merit promotion, restored by Brown to help diversify the ranks.

• Approving a strong public nuisance ordinance that uses hefty fines and vehicle impoundment to punish looters, flash mobs and others for lesser crimes the state’s attorney won’t prosecute. Vallas denied that the public nuisance ordinance and a reinvigorated municipal prosecutions section within the city’s Law Department would be tantamount to stop-and-frisk.

• Revamping a background check process the inspector general’s office has concluded “screens out too many quality applicants” simply because of the “associations that come from” the neighborhoods “where they were raised.”

• Using the mayor’s office to convene monthly summits of law enforcement officials at the federal, state, county and city levels.

While pending proposals to offer a signing bonus and down payment assistance could help reverse the mass exodus of officers, Vallas argued that CPD will “continue to lose officers and struggle to find replacements” until Brown and his entire leadership team are replaced.

“He’s lost the support of the rank-and-file. Once you lose it, you never get it back,” he said.

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