‘Is Chicago savable?’ GOP congressional hearing in Chicago marked by partisan attacks, false claims

The GOP-controlled House Judiciary Committee held the hearing at Fraternal Order of Police headquarters to discuss violence in the city.

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House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio.

Jacquelyn Martin, AP Photos

Congressional Republicans came to Chicago Tuesday to hear attack after attack against Democrats who were accused of turning the city into an “active war zone.”

The GOP-controlled House Judiciary Committee held the hearing at Fraternal Order of Police headquarters to discuss violence in the city, but it was dominated by sharp partisan attacks, false claims and factual omissions.

“The left has implemented pro-criminal policies that have allowed dangerous criminals to remain on the street,” Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said. “The left has attacked law enforcement and has sought to defund the police. And then when crime goes up, they act shocked.”

Fox News commentator Gianno Caldwell was called to testify about his brother Christian, who was shot and killed last June in Morgan Park.

But Caldwell also used the platform to offer a warning about the state abolishing cash bail last week, falsely claiming that suspects accused of second-degree murder and arson couldn’t be detained under provisions of the controversial SAFE-T Act.

“Where we are in Chicago right now — where you can be downtown Chicago and be robbed, killed, whatever the case may be — we’re really entering Gotham City based on the law that just got implemented,” Caldwell said.

Homicides and shootings have continued to fall this year in Chicago, down 11% and 13%. But overall crime is up nearly 30%, with motor vehicle thefts and robberies surging.

Rep. Mary Miller, a Republican from downstate Oakland, also seized on the bail reform measure, claiming Gov. J.B. Pritzker “lied to the people of Illinois” about ending cash bail and slamming Democrats for toeing the line.

“We are the normals and they are the crazies,” said Miller, who is not on the committee. “What I want to know is, what is it going to take to wake the people up in Chicago, and especially in the communities that are disproportionately impacted by this violence, to realize that the people they are electing are promoting these policies and voting for it?”

Carlos Yanez Jr., a Chicago police officer who was wounded in a shooting that killed Officer Ella French, testified that the SAFE-T Act doesn’t live up to its “beautiful name” and actually puts crime victims in danger.

But Yanez did not mention that the bail reform law allows even people charged with misdemeanor crimes to be detained until trial – a fact praised by advocates for victims of domestic and sexual violence.

Much of the hearing hinged on allegations that Democrats are pushing to “defund” the police, although the term was often used as a segue to discuss police reforms that speakers claimed are handcuffing officers.

The department’s vehicle and foot pursuit policies, which tightly restrict when officers can chase suspects, were slammed throughout the meeting.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican who appeared virtually, used the topic to springboard into a jarring question: “Is Chicago savable, or is the city in such downward trajectory that our only hope is to make sure that these policies don’t spread to other places?”

No one mentioned that the department’s foot chase policy was implemented as part of a federal consent decree mandating sweeping reforms, or that the vehicle pursuit policy was revised amid a mountain of settlements stemming from crashes.

Yanez and former Chicago Police Lt. John Garrido III took aim at the police disciplinary system, with Yanez noting that the city’s civilian oversight agency is handing out suspensions “like candy on Halloween.”

Garrido said it’s “demoralizing” that anonymous complaints can prompt lengthy disciplinary inquiries, insisting that many investigations are based on “false allegations.”

He bemoaned the fact that Chicago cops are conducting far fewer street stops than they did in 2015, but he failed to mention a settlement the police department reached that year to curtail its stop-and-frisk practices.

Republican lawmakers took repeated shots at Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, who slammed GOP leaders earlier this week for holding the hearing instead of working out a budget agreement to keep the federal government open.

Jordan’s committee held a similar hearing in New York in April, lambasting Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg who charged former President Donald Trump with falsifying New York business records.

As with Foxx, Jordan used that hearing to call Bragg “soft on crime,” though major crime in New York was down at the time.

Amid the partisan rancor, Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., complained that Democrats didn’t attend Tuesday’s hearing. Then he blamed the country’s crime problems on a “failure of leadership.”

“If we continue on this path of lawlessness and a disregard for the rule of law,” he added, “we will lose our freedoms.”

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