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Watchdog Ripped By Aldermen For Slamming Police After Teacher's Murder

By Heather Cherone | October 25, 2017 5:55pm | Updated on October 27, 2017 11:39am
 Inspector General Joseph Ferguson, right, chats with Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) before appearing before the City Council Wednesday.
Inspector General Joseph Ferguson, right, chats with Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) before appearing before the City Council Wednesday.
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DNAinfo/Heather Cherone

CITY HALL — Aldermen raked Inspector General Joseph Ferguson over the coals Wednesday for publicly accusing Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Supt. Eddie Johnson of lacking a comprehensive crime strategy after his children's teacher was gunned down.

Cynthia Trevillion died around 6:30 p.m. Oct. 13 after being caught in the crossfire that erupted between two groups in 6900 block of north Glenwood Avenue. Trevillion, 64, taught Ferguson's children at the private Waldorf School.

"And let’s admit what we all know: Our city does not have a comprehensive crime strategy," Ferguson wrote in the opinion pages of the Sun-Times. "We desperately need one — and a leader to make it a reality."

Ald. Ariel Reyboras (31st) — the chairman of the City Council's Public Safety Committee — said he took Ferguson's column "as an insult."

Ferguson — who said a member of the newspaper's editorial board asked him to write the column — said he had no intent to offend members of the council, who each took turns browbeating Ferguson Wednesday as he appeared before the City Council to field questions about his department's 2018 budget.

However, Ferguson said the city needed a real community policing policy to address the problem of crime holistically as the city struggles to end a three-year crime surge.

"I appreciate that I pushed hard," Ferguson said, acknowledging that his article caused "discomfort." "We need to live in discomfort until we get a handle on this problem."

Ald. Emma Mitts, whose 37th Ward is among the city's most violent, said she was offended by Ferguson's column.

"If we are one city we should have been acting this way all long," Mitts said. "We deal with this [violence] day in and day out. Why did it have to be a white person?"

Ald. Jason Ervin (27th) said he was outraged that Trevillion's death created more of a firestorm than the discovery of a toddler's dismembered body in the Garfield Park lagoon.

"A white woman gets killed and all hell breaks loose?" Ervin said. "Something is really wrong with that picture. Your op-ed bought into that. These issues are not new."

Ferguson admitted Trevillion's murder "snapped me" out of my complacency about violence in Chicago.

"That is flat wrong," Ferguson said, acknowledging that the vast majority of the nearly 550 people killed so far this year were slain on the South and West sides of the city. "We all need to wake up."

Ald. Ray Lopez (15th) told Ferguson that Trevillion's murder "pierced your white privilege." The inspector general agreed with Lopez.

However, Ferguson did not stray from the central argument of his column, arguing that the city lacks a "holistic, comprehensive" approach to violence.

"Right now, we have CPD trying to figure it out on their own," Ferguson said. "That ain't going to do."

After Ferguson's column was published by the Sun-Times, the newspaper published a response from Johnson, who disputed what he said was Ferguson's conclusion that the Police Department was "rudderless and ineffective."

"You are misinformed to suggest that CPD does not have a crime strategy or is not invested in the safety of our neighborhoods," Johnson wrote to Ferguson, noting that he promoted former Austin (15th) Police District Cmdr. Dwayne Betts to lead the city's citywide community policing effort.

Ferguson said he spoke with Johnson Tuesday night and apologized and looked forward to working with him on developing new crime-fighting strategies.