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Rahm unloads on Trump: Focus on jobs, education — not crowd size

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Monday unloaded on President Donald Trump — for the tone of his inaugural address, his preoccupation with the size of the crowd who witnessed that speech, and his promise to reverse what he calls “dangerous” anti-policing sentiments sweeping the nation.

“You didn’t get elected to debate the crowd size at your inaugural. … You got elected to make sure that people have a job, that the economy continues to grow, people have security as it relates to their kids’ education. It wasn’t about your crowd size. It was about their lives and their jobs,” the mayor said after cutting the ribbon at a domestic violence shelter in Uptown.

Emanuel advised Trump to do what he did while working as a political operative for former President Bill Clinton and as former President Barack Obama’s first White House chief of staff.

“The most important thing you can do is create a relationship between the desk in the Oval Office and the issues at the kitchen table,” Emanuel said. “And I don’t think in the kitchen tables of America — and I definitely can tell you on Saturday at the parade — people were not talking about the crowd size on Friday. They were talking about jobs, education, health care, security.”

Emanuel, who was one of Democrat Hillary Clinton’s earliest supporters, also took issue with the bleak and somewhat combative tone of Trump’s inaugural address.

“The speech missed an opportunity to speak to our better angels as a country,” the mayor said.

The mayor was even more troubled that, within hours of his swearing in, Trump took yet another shot at Chicago for the 60 percent surge in homicides and shootings in 2016 that has continued unabated into the new year.

“There were thousands of shootings in Chicago last year alone. … Our country needs more law enforcement, more community engagement and more effective policing,” the Trump administration posted on the White House website.

Trump vowed to preside over a “law and order administration” where the “dangerous anti-police atmosphere” will end.

Emanuel said he, too, is “not happy about” the fact that the bloodshed on Chicago streets has only intensified during the first three weeks of January. As of Monday afternoon, there had been 43 homicides so far this year — nine more than during the same time period last year. Shootings also were up, with 231 people injured from gunfire so far this year compared to 216 injured during the same time frame last year.

Emanuel argued that the answer to that complex problem lies, not in taking the shackles off police officers and returning to controversial stop-and-frisk tactics favored by Trump, but to give officers the training, supervision and “certainty” they need to return to pro-active policing.

That’s the recipe outlined in the U.S. Justice Department’s scathing indictment of the Chicago Police Department that is unlikely to lead to a consent decree under Trump.

“Professionalism and pro-active policing go together,” the mayor said. “They’re heads and tails of the same issue. … The whole effort is about creating clear professional standards and the training that goes with it, the support that goes with it so that officers can have the certainty to do their job.

“But, if you look at the last year across the country and then say, ‘The only answer is to go to stop-and-frisk. That’s it,’ that’s not where the world is today.”

In fall 2015, Emanuel contended during a closed-door meeting with then Attorney General Loretta Lynch and 20 big-city mayors and police chiefs that police officers across the nation were becoming “fetal” because they’re afraid their videotaped encounters with the public will end up on YouTube.

Less than two months later, the pullback by Chicago Police officers got dramatically worse, prompting a precipitous drop in police activity.

It happened after the court-ordered release of a video played around the world of white police officer Jason Van Dyke pumping 16 rounds into the body of black teenager Laquan McDonald. The video triggered the sweeping federal civil rights investigation of Chicago’s police force.

On Monday, Emanuel said there’s a reason why homicides and shootings also are surging in San Diego, Austin, Texas, San Antonio, Indianapolis, Memphis and Baltimore.

“Clearly, there was a reaction to what happened across the country. On the other hand, the choice isn’t just go back to stop and frisk. This is not a bi-polar [issue with only] two camps,” the mayor said. “We need our police to have high professional standards, the training to support them in those high professional standards and the certainty to be pro-actively involved. People want to say, ‘Just do that.’ But, it’s a more complicated problem.”

Emanuel has embarked on a two-year hiring blitz to add 970 police officers over and above attrition. But he has acknowledged that it won’t matter how many new officers the city hires if officers continue to lay back.

“If you look at what’s happened, there’s no doubt that police have to have … the certainty around being professional but also certainty around what the rules are so they can be pro-active,” the mayor said. “If police step back and adopt a reactive mode, the only winners in that process are gangs.”

The mayor also renewed his long-standing pitch for stiffer sentences for repeat gun offenders.

“If you use a gun in New York, three-year minimum for that crime. In Illinois, it’s one year. And don’t think for a moment gang members don’t know there’s not a penalty for using a gun,” he said.

Contributing: Sun-Times Wire