CHICAGO – As tensions between police and communities remain high and violent crime rises in many cities, the nation’s law enforcement leaders gathered at the University of Chicago Wednesday to discuss their common issues and search for solutions.
Officials from the Department of Justice and FBI, and police chiefs from a dozen major cities are participating in the conference. At a press conference Monday, several police chiefs noted they’re facing two major challenges: increasing trust while reducing crime.
In Chicago that challenge is overwhelming.
According to Chicago Tribune statistics, the city has seen 389 homicides and more than 2,500 shootings so far this year. The alarming spike in violent crime comes at the same time as the Chicago Police Department is under investigation by the Department of Justice and dealing with continued protests over police conduct.
Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson welcomed police chiefs and federal law enforcement officials from nearly a dozen cities. They discussed potential solutions like tougher gun laws on the federal and state levels, deterrence strategies, and combating gangs that drive violence.
“Violence is driven by repeat offenders with easy access in Chicago easy access to guns,” said Johnson said.
But Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn noted police officers can’t be expected to solve every single social problem. In particular, he said places with the highest rates of violence also have the highest rates of poverty, unemployment, school dropouts, and abandoned and foreclosed homes.
Flynn argues legislative and public policy solutions will have to address why the violent crime is confined to pockets of poverty and segregation in most cities.
“We feel like we’re the only members of the criminal justice system, indeed the only member in the entire social service apparatus, held accountable for crime,” Flynn said. “We’re the social agency of first resort for the poor.”
Today’s summit meeting was one of many hosted in cities every year. Superintendent Johnson says the group discussed strategy but he didn’t want to go into detail about that so he didn’t, “give away the playbook,” he said.