Chicago mayoral candidate and local state Rep. Kam Buckner (D-26th) unveiled his public safety plan Tuesday morning, advocating for a dual approach of investing more money in both law enforcement and community resources. Buckner’s announcement at Woodlawn’s MetroSquash education center, 6100 S. Cottage Grove Ave., comes as crime becomes an increasingly politicized talking point for candidates in the mayoral and statewide races.
"I'm running for mayor to make Chicago safe, but we need a plan, and we need a mayor who can collaborate to get it done, who can work to create true safety in all 77 of Chicago's neighborhoods," Buckner said.
Among his proposals, Buckner said he would fill the 1,600 Chicago Police Department vacancies in the first two years of his administration, as well as recruit more homicide detectives.
One way to do this, he said, would be to remove applicant credit score reviews during the hiring process. (The logic behind the restrictions was that applicants who were in arrears would be more likely to take bribes.)
Buckner also proposed a civilian-staffed "Internet Intelligence Unit" to surveil crimes being planned online, and wants to bolster communication between CPD and other independent police departments operating within city limits (e.g. the University of Chicago Police Department).
While laying out his plan for increasing investments into CPD, Buckner nodded to many Chicagoans' deep distrust of the police.
When he was 16-years-old, a police officer first told him that he "fit a description." The same thing happened at 35-years-old. “I'm well-aware of the necessity of rebuilding trust between our communities and law enforcement,” Buckner said.
One of Buckner’s proposed solutions to increase CPD transparency is for all use of force incidents to be recorded and publicly posted within 30 days. He adds that he would also ensure CPD is in full compliance with the state attorney general's 2017 consent decree, a mandate of more than 500 department reforms, which was ordered after the police murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. The consent decree is still being implemented and was recently given a three-year extension.
He also pledged support for the passage of the Anjanette Young Ordinance, supported by local Alds. Sophia King (4th), Leslie Hairston (5th) and Jeanette Taylor (20th), that would codify restrictions on police warrants and raids. The ordinance, currently stalled in City Council and not supported by Mayor Lori Lightfoot, was proposed in response to the police department’s 2019 mistaken raid of Anjanette Young’s home, in which officers burst through the social worker’s door and handcuffed her while she was naked.
"In a Buckner administration, if you are a police officer who does your job within the scope of the laws of Illinois, the City of Chicago and our U.S. Constitution, who operates in the bounds of your training, this will be the best big-city cop job you will find in America," he said.
However, Buckner added: “We cannot spend $1.9 billion dollars on CPD every year and not see results.” Among non-law enforcement approaches to public safety, he said he wants to double the Chicago Office of Violence Prevention's funding to $33 million, increasing violence prevention programming citywide.
He also supports passing the "Peace Book'' ordinance through City Council, an anti-violence plan proposed by the activist group GoodKids MadCity, which is oriented around restorative justice programming.
He added that he would implement the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion method, which diverts nonviolent offenders to community harm-prevention programs, and said his administration would fund re-entry programs to combat recidivism.
Buckner also proposed establishing a mental health option to 9-1-1 to ensure mental health and crisis specialists can respond to medical emergencies instead of police, as well as increased investments in the city’s remaining mental health clinics. (State Sen. Robert Peters (D-13th) did something similar by establishing a new hotline, 9-8-8, which Illinoisans can call for mental health first-responders beginning on Jan. 1, 2023.)
"Solving crimes is what we must do, but preventing crimes before they happen is what we are capable of doing. But Chicago is stuck being reactive, desperately implementing curfews on our youth instead of investing in them and their neighborhoods," he said. "We need to create safe, clean and bright community spaces in all 77 neighborhoods, especially for our youth."
That means clean, well-lit green space citywide and a new youth engagement superintendent at Chicago Public Schools charged with reducing crimes young adults commit through expanding after-school programs in art, sports and music.
"As the son of a law enforcement officer and a CPS teacher, I understand the importance of taking a balanced approach to safety and justice that tackles crime but also tackles the root causes of crime. We need short-term, mid-range and long-term plans in order to make Chicago safe," Buckner said.