The late spring of 2020 will be remembered in Chicago for unrest and looting sparked by fury over the police killing of George Floyd. Away from public visibility, these weeks also brought carnage to this city in the form of gunfire.
Over Memorial Day weekend at least 10 people were shot to death, 40 wounded. The shooting and killing intensified the following weekend, though it was overshadowed by the Floyd rallies and chaos: More than 20 dead, 80 wounded.
Now, let’s talk about calls to defund the police.
There’s no snark intended in that juxtaposition, only anguish for a city racked by gun violence that also must overhaul its troubled Police Department. Let’s face it, two terrible things have happened at once in one great city, and that’s the situation in Chicago: Gun violence is a plague, and the Chicago Police Department has a long history of mistreating minority suspects.
Mistrust of police runs so deep in some communities that the answer gaining attention is to defund the police.
Defund the police? It’s a vague term that invites ridicule if taken literally, as in abolish police departments, so we won’t go there. The more generous interpretation is to see it as a call to action and demand for changes to the practices and culture of policing. Even then, “defund the police,” which looks good on a protest sign, comes off as more argumentative than constructive. Rethink policing? Yes. Improve and reform policing? Yes again.
For Chicago, any push to cut the size of the Police Department or limit its public safety role in the midst of a gun violence crisis is counterproductive. We want leaders of every government agency to spend taxpayer dollars responsibly and save every dollar possible, yes, but the priorities for CPD are obvious and obtainable: Protect residents, save lives, solve crimes and rebuild broken trust with minority communities.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE