Johnson hopes to convince police officers to stay on the job by giving them support

“What I’ve heard repeatedly is that, much like teachers, police officers are being asked to do their job and someone else’s job,” the mayor-elect told the Sun-Times.

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Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson greets supporters Wednesday morning at the Chinatown Red Line Station, the day after he defeated Paul Vallas in a runoff mayoral election.

Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson greets supporters Wednesday morning at the Chinatown Red Line Station, the day after he defeated Paul Vallas in a runoff mayoral election.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson said Wednesday he hopes to reassure Chicago Police officers who fear he won’t have their back to stay on the job by giving them more support and taking extraneous responsibilities off their plate.

Newly re-elected Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara made headlines in the run-up to Tuesday’s election by predicting that between 800 and 1,000 officers would run for the hills if Johnson defeated Paul Vallas.

“If this guy gets in, we’re going to see an exodus like we’ve never seen before,” Catanzara said.

On Wednesday, Johnson was asked how he intends to convince cops who are afraid they won’t be supported to stay on the job instead of joining an exodus that has created 1,700 police vacancies.

“I don’t know if police officers are afraid. What I’ve heard repeatedly is that, much like teachers, police officers are being asked to do their job and someone else’s job,” Johnson told the Sun-Times.

“Police officers have asked for mental health support. Police officers have asked for regular supervision. They need to know who their supervisor is on a consistent basis. Police officers have the responsibility of even replacing their own equipment. There are dynamics to law enforcement that are not always covered. There’s more to law enforcement than someone clocking in. It’s a whole lived experience,” he said.

Johnson said he plans to reassure skittish officers by “bringing people together around the things that we agree upon.”

“I’m prepared to sit down and have conversations with all of the stakeholders to make sure that we have a united plan that, not only keeps our city safe, but we make sure that those who do the dangerous work have everything that they need,” he said.

A self-described “collaborator,” Johnson plans to apply the same approach to business leaders who backed Paul Vallas in a desperate attempt to stop the $800 million in new or increased taxes Johnson needs to bankroll the social programs that form the cornerstone of his anti-violence strategy.

Asked whether he is willing to drop the head tax that’s been branded a “job killer,” Johnson stressed that it’s part of a “full budget plan” that is “not limited to revenue.”

“We cannot have waste in our budget. People also agree that, as part of the budget plan, relying on property taxes is unsustainable. Everyone agrees with that. But, people also agree that we have to have revenue… in order to have a better, stronger, safer Chicago. We are all united around that,” Johnson said.

One day after riding a wave of progressive and Black support to become the 57th mayor of Chicago, Johnson did a series of post-election interviews at the South Loop hotel where he celebrated his election night victory.

Each media outlet was granted a maximum of ten minutes, conveyor-belt style. Then, it was onto to the next interviewer.

He was asked whether he plans to change or put his stamp on a City Council reorganization that includes a new line-up of chairpersons and increases the number of committees from 19 to 28.

“I believe in co-governance… [But], there are newly-elected City Council members that, I’m sure, are gonna want to participate in that process. So, as much as I appreciate the efforts and the work of City Council members, we need to make sure that all members who are part of this body have the ability to participate in a process that works for everyone,” he said.

“The bottom line is, we want to bring people together. The way to do that is you allow for maximum participation.”

Pressed on whether the Council needs 28 committees, Johnson said, “That’s a decision we have to make collectively. That’s gonna require us to do some real assessment.”

Johnson didn’t miss a beat when asked about the first three votes he wants the City Council to take after the May 15 inauguration.

“The city of Chicago is united around summer employment and year-round positions for young people…We’re all together as it relates to mental health support and services. Chicago is united around families that are unhoused and environmental justice,” he said.

“Because there’s unity already built around those particular dynamics, I’m going to work tirelessly within the first 100 days to bring people together who see these particular dynamics as critical to having a safe city.”

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