The mayor backed up his hand-picked superintendent during his first news conference since African-American aldermen said last week that their constituents are making louder demands that something be done to quash the epidemic of homicides that has drawn nationwide attention to Chicago.
“Both Garry McCarthy, (First Deputy Police Supt.) Al Wysinger and the entire leadership in the police department have my 100 percent support, but they also have my sense of impatience to get the results throughout the city to bring the type of safety we want in every neighborhood,” Emanuel said.
“I appreciate any of the aldermen’s expressions, their frustrations. That is no different than the urgency I want for public safety,” Emanuel said as Ald. Howard Brookins, head of the City Council’s black caucus, looked on.
Last week, Brookins, 21st, questioned McCarthy’s tactics. On Monday, Brookins said he liked the mayor’s urgency. “I think it shows the frustration. I think he captured the mood of the black caucus that we’re all frustrated,” the alderman said. “I’m glad that it’s such a high-level priority for the mayor, as well as all the members of the black caucus.”
But Brookins continued to sound the alarm about the number of killings, which have remained stubbornly high in Chicago even as Emanuel and McCarthy have tried a variety of police tactics and legislative maneuvers in recent months to bring them down.
“I’m not the expert with respect to crime reduction, and I’m a result-oriented guy, as much of my caucus is,” Brookins said. “We just are displaying the frustration that the public is pushing on us about crime within our communities, and primarily it is within African-American communities that we’re seeing this violence.”
The mayor gave his vote of confidence while telling reporters the city has enough money to greatly expand the police department’s “violence prevention initiative,” which pays officers overtime to come in on their days off to work patrol in high crime areas. The Tribune has reported McCarthy plans to double the size of the program to allow up to 400 officers to sign up, and to expand it to every day from five days per week.
“We’re making the right calls and we’re making the right decisions to invest, and it’s an extended period of time but the right call to do and we have the resources to do it. Don’t worry, the budget will be fully balanced as it has been when we proposed it, and we made the cuts where we need to and the investments where we must,” the mayor said.
Emanuel’s 2013 spending plan included a $3 million increase in the department’s overtime to $32 million, according to city budget documents. That's still less than the $33.7 million the department spent on overtime in 2011, documents show.
The mayor’s comments came at a news conference to announce an additional 4,200 children will attend full-day kindergarten next year at a cost of $15 million. That money was found through cost-cutting at the school district’s central office, he said.
Emanuel has in the past used the city’s shaky financial situation to help explain the need to close city-run mental health clinics, lay off city workers and raise water fees and other costs for residents. And Chicago Public Schools officials are on the verge of closing schools to save money over the long haul as they face a deficit of us much as $1 billion next year.
But as with his assurances on police overtime, the mayor said money is available for the kindergarten program. It’s a matter of priorities, he said. “What are your priorities? You’ve got to make them, and then you’ve got to be able to fund them,” he said.