The Chicago Police Department is recruiting an additional 970 officers to add to its current roster of 12,500 officers in order to address the alarming increase in crime this year. To date, in 2016, 3,122 people were shot in the city.
In an interview with the Chicago Sun Times, Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson addressed the nearly $134 million dollar increase to the city’s payroll that will result from the drastic increase in staff. “We did an overall analysis of the department…I took a real hard look at it and this is what I think we need to make Chicago safer,” he said. “It’s going to cost. But there’s no price for the safety of this city.”
Johnson says the department will will hire new officers from the current pool of 8,100 people who passed a recent qualifying exam. Of those candidates, 71 percent are minorities. The superintendent also says they will continue to do outreach and offer another exam next year in an effort to have candidates represent the city’s population.
There is no doubt that measures must be taken to counter the drastic increase in crime. However, the city could also benefit from investing in a more long-term strategy that employs programs that proactively address poverty, unemployment, education and the inequities we know lead to increased crime. The “War on Crime” and “The War on Drugs” have shown that investing in punitive, reactive measures as a means of combating crime are not viable long-term solutions.
Additionally, as tensions continue to mount between law enforcement in black communities on a national scale, it might be wise to consider the optics that flooding Chicago with a stronger police presence might have on an this already volatile situation. Officer Johnson acknowledged this tension saying, “Law enforcement all over the country is being scrutinized…Let’s be honest about it. They don’t want to be the next viral video that comes out. They have families to support and careers to think about.”
With so much at stake, there is no doubt that the criminal justice system plays a vital role in managing crime, but it is crucial that we don’t over invest in back-end punitive measures at the expense of front-end crime prevention.
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