Two days after President Donald Trump told a national television audience that Mayor Rahm Emanuel needed to “smarten up and toughen up” on fighting gun violence, the mayor held a carefully orchestrated news conference to discuss Chicago’s “smart-policing strategy.”
As Emanuel summoned a swarm of cameras to the 7th District police station in Englewood on Friday to highlight new police cameras and gunshot tracking technology, sources said the Police Department’s top brass was busy carrying out an order to flood the city’s most violent neighborhoods with extra officers this weekend.
In a Tuesday night tweet in which he said he “will send in the Feds!” if the city doesn’t fix its violent crime problems, Trump cited Chicago Tribune crime data that showed January homicides up 24 percent compared with 2016, a year marred by the highest number of killings in two decades. Trump again criticized Emanuel and the city’s handling of gun violence in his first television interview as president Wednesday night, describing Chicago’s rampant shootings as “horrible carnage” and “a problem that is very easily fixable.”
Now, hundreds of additional Chicago police officers assigned to tactical, gang, saturation and mission teams have had their regular days off canceled from Friday through Sunday, according to police sources familiar with the change that was announced during a meeting at police headquarters. The city’s beat officers also were given the option of earning overtime by working weekend days off, the sources said.
Adding so many officers to the street on their day off is more typical during hot summer months or special occasions such as when the president is visiting the city; is unusual for a cold-weather month such as January. This month has been marked by weekends with dozens of shootings, including 54 people shot last weekend alone.
Through Thursday, there had been 42 homicides so far with five days left in the month. In January 2016, there were 50 homicides. If the number of killings for January were to come in lower than last year, that would allow Emanuel to try to counter Trump’s narrative of this year being off to an even worse start.
Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said the staffing adjustment was unrelated to recent attention paid to Chicago’s gun violence by the Republican president.
The mayor did not bring up the weekend staffing increase at his Friday news conference, instead focusing on technological advances the department is making in its two most violent police districts on the South and West sides – including the expansion of a gunshot detection system and crime cameras on the street along with new surveillance centers and new cellphones with software to instantly inform officers of shootings.
The mayor’s announcement came to an abrupt end when police Superintendent Eddie Johnson grew faint and had to be helped to a chair, leading officers to call paramedics and escort reporters out of the room. On Friday night, Johnson said he had become lightheaded earlier in the day after taking blood pressure medication on an empty stomach, but he confirmed he’s had a kidney disease for more than 30 years and is on a list waiting for a transplant.
While Johnson’s health episode Friday came as a surprise, the rest of Emanuel’s policing message for the day was scripted for public consumption.
Source: Chicago Tribune | Bill Ruthhart, Jeremy Gorner, Hal Dardick