Mayoral challenger Kam Buckner unveils anti-violence plan

Buckner vowed to bolster the detective ranks to improve a still unacceptable homicide clearance rate and create what he called a “first of its kind in the nation” Internet Intelligence Unit to “combat crimes being planned online.”

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Chicago mayoral candidate and state Rep. Kam Buckner, shown at a May 18 news conference.

Chicago mayoral candidate and state Rep. Kam Buckner, shown at a May 18 news conference, on Tuesday released his plan to tackle the problem of violence in the city.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Warning that Chicago is becoming “almost numb” to the “relentless drumbeat” of violence repeated over Memorial Day weekend, mayoral challenger Kam Buckner on Tuesday unveiled his plan to stop it.

Buckner’s plan would start with removing what he calls “unnecessary and artificial restrictions” to police hiring, including low credit scores, to more quickly fill 1,600 police vacancies that have forced a relentless string of canceled days off.

“If you are a police officer who does your job,” abides by your training within the bounds of federal state and local laws, Buckner said, then Chicago “will be the best big city cop job you’ll find in America.”

But, he warned: “This will not be a department where you can victimize our citizens and get away with it” or where “bad actors can hide.”

The plan was released after another predictably violent Memorial Day weekend, with 9 people killed and 42 wounded from Friday evening through early Tuesday. It was higher than some recent years, including the 37 shot during the same period last year, or the 49 shot in 2020.

Buckner vowed to bolster the detective ranks to improve a still unacceptable homicide clearance rate and create what he called a “first of its kind in the nation” Internet Intelligence Unit to “combat crimes being planned online.”

“Carjackings, smash-and-grabs and murders are being planned in the open — on social networks — and we need specialized attention focused on monitoring online trends so that we can stop these crimes before they happen,” Buckner told a news conference in Woodlawn.

The chairman of the Illinois House Black Caucus, Buckner recalled being told by a police officer at age 16 that he “fit a description.” He was told the same thing as a 35-year-old man.

To rebuild shattered trust between citizens and police, particularly in African American neighborhoods, Buckner’s plan also calls for:

• Redrawing CPD’s police districts so they reflect Chicago’s neighborhoods.

• Improved community policing.

• Expanded use of “co-responder models” that allow mental health professionals to respond to mental health emergencies instead of police officers.

• Mandatory release of body camera footage within 30 days of a police incident.

• City Council passage of the more sweeping search warrant reform ordinance embraced by Anjanette Young, the innocent social worker forced to stand naked, crying and pleading while an all-male team of Chicago police officers raided her home by mistake.

• Appointment of a “Youth Engagement Superintendent” charged with coordinating with Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Park District “to make certain all schools, no matter their ZIP code, offer holistic education with a variety of after-school programs that engage students in sports, music and art.”

• Work with the business community to create jobs and skills training for young people, double funding for the city’s Office of Violence Prevention and bolster investment in “diversion programs and job creation for those most at-risk” of becoming victims — or perpetrators — of violent crime.

Obviously referring to Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s on-again, off-again public feuding with Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, Buckner said: “Chicago can’t fight crime if our leaders are fighting each other. Every department and agency that touches our criminal justice system must be working together to stop the violence in our streets, not embroiled in petty arguments that solve nothing.”

Buckner is the son of a law enforcement officer and a teacher. Several of his closest relatives are Chicago police officers.

He has also been the victim of racial profiling and charged twice with driving under the influence.

That gives him a unique perspective on public safety.

Even more important is the fact that stopping the violence is personal to him.

“I was 5 years old when I first saw someone shot in this city. I was 9 years old when I lost my first family member to gun violence in this city. And unfortunately, it wouldn’t be the last time,” Buckner said.

“As we played with our son last night, I thought about the incredibly young age that these things impacted me and don’t want him to endure the same thing.”

Buckner said Chicago can provide “both safety and justice,” but only if it gets “new leadership” with a “way forward.”

That leader, he said, will be “someone who can bring the city together and has a vision to make all of Chicago safe. Someone who’ll bring a balanced approach to both safety and justice. Someone who knows this city, grew up here, who loves this city and her people.”

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