Sat, Sep 24, 2016 - Page 7 News List

Chicago mayor details mentoring plans


Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Thursday appealed to Chicago residents for help fighting the troubling rise in city violence, announcing US$36 million in youth mentoring efforts, policing strategies and gun legislation as his plan to fight and prevent crime.

He used the invitation-only speech to cap off announcements in recent days that the city would add about 1,000 police officers, expand the use of body cameras and require de-escalation training, reforms in the wake of an ongoing US Department of Justice investigation of the police department.

The former White House chief of staff highlighted a new public-private mentoring partnership that would help more than 7,000 youths over the next three years, veering from prepared remarks when describing the struggles young people face in neighborhoods tormented by gangs and violence.

“The deck has been stacked against the kids,” he said. “It’s time we reshuffle the deck and put our kids on the top of that deck.”

Inside the Malcolm X College gym on Chicago’s near West Side, security was tight and the reception was friendly with the audience of aldermen, community leaders and Emanuel administration members applauding at least a dozen times during the 40-minute speech. Outside, there were a few protesters calling for scrutiny of police misconduct investigations, a theme that has rippled for months.

Emanuel, in his second term as mayor, has been trying to rebuild trust in his leadership, particularly after the 2014 death of Laquan McDonald, a black teenager shot 16 times by a white police officer.

The officer was charged with murder, but only after a judge ordered the public release of the graphic squad car video last year. Circulation of the video prompted frequent protests, allegations of a cover-up and repeated calls for Emanuel to step down.

The US Department of Justice has since launched a systemic probe of department practices.

And Emanuel, who initially opposed the idea of a federal probe, on Thursday said that the city should work with federal agencies to improve.

“Fighting crime requires a partnership between the police and the community. And we all know that this partnership has been tested in Chicago,” he said. “It is a problem that has festered in this city for decades.”

He also touched on new technology, including gunshot-tracing cameras, gun shop legislation and the need for more neighborhood resources.

The mayor bluntly asked Chicagoans for assistance.

Calling respect “a two-way street,” Emanuel said there is no pass for people to taunt police or for officers “belittling” people who need help.

“Every one of us has a role to play in rebuilding the vital partnership between our police and the community. We all have to hold ourselves, and each other, to a higher standard,” he said. “So today I am calling on all Chicagoans to join in a comprehensive plan — a blueprint — to confront gun violence.”

Emanuel recapped changes instituted by his administration, including abolishing the agency that handles police investigations and pitching a new system for reviewing police misconduct and department audits.

Chicago has seen a dramatic rise in the number of shootings and homicides this year.

Last month alone, there were 90 homicides, marking the first time in two decades there have been that many in a single month. Overall, the city has recorded more than 500 homicides this year — higher than all of last year — and is on pace to climb past the 600-homicide mark for the first time since 2003.

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