Law enforcement is a dangerous vocation that requires strength and courage. Most of all, it is a daily test of will.
That’s why statements in a recent Sun-Times editorial, challenging the limits of what our police department can accomplish and comparing crime rates to the weather, were so far off the mark. We can’t change the weather, but through the commitments we make to keep our city safe and our resolve to see them though, we can reduce crime and violence in our city.
Modern policing is about putting management systems in place to achieve violence reduction over the long term. Since Mayor Emanuel took office, we have been making changes to put more officers back into districts, working within and with the community to keep neighborhoods safe.
The paper correctly points out that short-term crime trends can fluctuate. This is why it is so important to recognize that this city just experienced 26 consecutive weeks where crime rates have dropped 12.5 percent citywide. That’s not a short-term trend. In fact, that drop in crime is double what it was for the previous 26-week time period. To put it in real terms, Chicago has had 68 fewer shooting victims over the past 26 weeks – those are not statistics, but human beings who didn’t get shot.
Numbers matter. Trends matter. Still, they cannot capture everything our officers are doing to address the causes of violent crime in our communities. We have upgraded our capacities to fight crime and hold ourselves accountable by instituting the CompStat program and by empowering district commanders, giving them increased resources to reduce violence in their districts.
I am pleased, but not satisfied with the recent accomplishments of our officers, as I know that there is still a great deal of work to do. I have the utmost confidence in the systemic changes we have made and the men and women tasked with carrying them out. Unfortunately, the Sun-Times confused that confidence for boastfulness in their recent editorial.
Fighting crime is a marathon, not a sprint, and it is important to recognize accomplishments along the way. It was in that spirit that I praised the men and women of our police department after a 24-hour period without gun violence or murders last month. In fact, for seven consecutive days in January, there were no murders in Chicago. That, along with the peaceful 24-hour period, served as important benchmarks of our success and examples of what should be the expectation, not the anomaly. Until recently, all shootings were not even tracked, so the achievement may have gone unnoticed.
The Sun-Times’ criticism of my recognition of that accomplishment does not bother me, but the defeatism of the paper’s editorial does. We do not make our communities safer by challenging “what even the best police force can do.” We make our communities safer by policing smarter, allocating resources more effectively and working hard to overcome daily difficulties and setbacks, not by being resigned to them
Though I understand the difficulty of the challenges ahead, our pursuit of reducing violence for Chicagoans must be relentless. Our city has suffered for too long and the character of our police officers is too strong for us to make any other choice.
Garry F. McCarthy is the superintendent of the Chicago Police.