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Chicago Violence 'Corrodes Our Core,' Rahm Says In Major Policy Speech

By  Ted Cox and Kelly Bauer | September 22, 2016 6:14pm | Updated on September 22, 2016 7:27pm

 Rahm Emanuel gives a major policy speech on violence Thursday.
Rahm Emanuel gives a major policy speech on violence Thursday.
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DNAinfo/Kelly Bauer

CITY HALL — Mayor Rahm Emanuel gave a major speech addressing Chicago's violence Thursday night, saying the crisis in the city's streets this year "corrodes our core."

"Gun violence in Chicago is unacceptable," the mayor said, his voice cracking at times during the speech at Malcolm X College on the Near West Side.

The mayor recounted a number of high-profile crimes this summer, including the shooting of a 6-year old playing on her porch and the slaying of a police officer's son who was home from college on summer break. His voice quavered as he described how Officer Arshell Dennis Jr. returned to work after losing his child.

The mayor also singled out the city's "heroes" — including Tamar Manasseh, who founded Mothers Against Senseless Killing, known as the "Army of Moms."

"For all the things that make Chicago great, for all the things that make us proud to call ourselves Chicagoans, the violence that is happening corrodes our core," he said. "It is not the Chicago we know and love."

For years, Emanuel has repeated a mantra on attacking street violence with what he calls "the four P's" — policing, punishment, prevention and parenting — and he fell back on those topics while expanding the debate to more wide-ranging social issues like employment and racial inequality Thursday.


Emanuel said residents are sick of the violence and want more police officers who are truly helping fight crime in their neighborhoods.

"They do not want more officers in cars, just driving through their communities," he said. "They want officers on the beat in their neighborhoods."

He said residents are tired of being prisoners in their own communities.

"There are too many senior citizens and good residents in Chicago who are sick and tired of having to walk several blocks out of their way when they leave their homes just to avoid the gangs and drug dealers on the street corner," he said.

"In too many communities parents cannot even let their children play outside for fear of a stray bullet. They have to teach their children how to react when they hear the all-too-common sound of gunfire," he said.

The mayor said that the relationship between police and the community "has festered in this city for decades" and worsened after the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

Emanuel touted Police Department reforms, such as releasing police videos sooner and replacing the independent agency that investigates police shootings and misconduct with a panel that will have "the tools to ensure real accountability when wrongdoing occurs."

While many residents want more police on the street that "respect" residents, the community needs to return that sentiment, Emanuel said.

"As I have said before, and I want to repeat today: Respect is a two-way street," he said. 

"There can be no permission slip for people taunting police officers trying to solve a crime in their community," he said. "And there can be no pass for officers belittling a citizen who has turned to them for help. Both of which we have seen in recent videos."

Emanuel recounted a number of initiatives he's undertaken, including a proposal to put nearly 1,000 more police officers on the streets.

He also said $36 million will be invested in mentoring programs over the next three years, with half of that coming from the city. The other half will come from corporations, philanthropies and individual donors, and about half of those funds have been raised.

One of those mentoring programs is Becoming a Man. BAM participants are only half as likely to be arrested for violent crime and are 20 percent more likely to finish high school on time, Emanuel said.

"That is why I am committing today to providing universal mentoring to these 7,200 young men," Emanuel said, referring to the number of teens in eighth, ninth and 10th grades who live in the 20 most crime-plagued neighborhoods in the city, according to the University of Chicago. "And this initiative is not just for a year. It will be a sustained effort."

Young people throughout the city will be recruited to participate in mentoring programs like BAM, Emanuel said. He will also ask businesses to encourage their employees to become mentors.

"This will be an opportunity for individuals of good will and compassion to help change the course of a young person’s life and the future course of our city," Emanuel said. "I am confident Chicago will answer the call. If we want every boy to become a man, we need every adult to become a mentor."


If the city doesn't provide mentors, gangs will, Rahm said.

"We cannot afford to lose another generation to the gangs" like the Vice Lords, Gangster Disciples and Latin Kings, he said. "The deck has been stacked against the kids, and it's time we reshuffle that deck and put our kids on top."

But mentoring won't be the only way Chicago will reduce violent crime, Emanuel said. He called on "life-changing job[s]" to be provided for teens, ex-cons and former drug users, and said the city must invest in "troubled communities, rather than driving around them."

That investment will include creating jobs. Emanuel said he was pushing for thousands of new summer jobs to be created for young men and women.

The city plans to add 970 officers in the next two years, and during his speech Emanuel said that Chicagoans must support officers and "help them do their difficult work."

How the city will pay for the new officers — expected to cost about $134 million — has not been revealed. 

"I am confident we can solve this problem," Emanuel said. " Now let's get to work."

After the speech, Kentrell Creamer, a four-year member of BAM, said he has learned values like respect for women, integrity and self-determination from the group. The BAM mentors became like family to him, he said, helping him set up college tours and introducing him to Chicago Bulls star Jimmy Butler.

Creamer lives in Garfield Park, one of the neighborhoods hardest hit by gun violence, and he said he thinks the investment in groups like BAM can help prevent violence in his neighborhood and other areas in the city.

"I think it will help BAM with more support to do more things," Creamer said. "Mainly they can help [people] get off the streets, stay in school, after-school programs, keep them away from the violence, just put them on the right path [and] help them experience new things."

Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th), an outspoken critic of gun violence in his Back of the Yards neighborhood, welcomed the talk of adding jobs and boosting neighborhood development.

Outside the college, activists held signs calling on Emanuel to resign and an end to police brutality. One man, addressing a small group of listeners, said jobs, not police, would be key to preventing violence and helping Chicagoans.

Amisha Patel, executive director of the Grassroots Collaborative, said investing in poor communities would signal an about-face for the mayor.

"I think speeches can be powerful if they're accompanied by real action, and I don't see that happening," Patel said. "What we need to see is real investment in our communities, reversing the administration's policy of disinvestment in communities.

"To end violence, we've got to have quality a neighborhood school in every community," she added. "We've got to have mental-health clinics accessible to people who need it. And these are things the mayor has worked to dismantle and take apart."

Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia (D-Chicago), who ran against Emanuel last year while pushing for the hiring of more police officers, echoed the call for economic development in the neighborhoods in more strident tones on Thursday ahead of Emanuel's speech.

"City Hall must redirect its attention from building downtown as a citadel for some Chicagoans and workers from the suburbs to rebuilding opportunities in neighborhoods where people are teetering on an economic cliff," Garcia said. "The history of this mayor has been to make broad promises and produce very little — especially when it comes to issues that touch on lives of the 99 percent. He’s promised more cops before — when he ran for mayor the first time around. He’s promised other reforms. But, these promises proved to be nothing more than photo ops. This time around, Chicago needs to make him keep his promises."

The speech Thursday was Emanuel first major independent speech on civic issues since his mea culpa following the release of the Laquan McDonald police-shooting video late last year, and his attempt to get on top of the topics of police and crime once and for all and, in many ways, put the turbulent protests and social unrest of the last year behind him.

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