Chicago mayoral candidate Brandon Johnson won't commit to filling CPD's vacant officer jobs

Virtually alone among the nine Chicagoans running for mayor, candidate Brandon Johnson will not pledge to fill the police department’s growing number of vacant positions.

"Spending more on policing per capita…has been a failure," Johnson told a news conference outside City Hall. 

While Johnson said he would cut $150 million in supervisory positions, a spokesman later said that money would be reallocated within the police department. The spokesman said it could be spent on implementing a police reform consent decree and promoting and training new detectives.


Johnson, a longtime staffer at the Chicago Teachers Union, promised to promote 200 new police detectives.  Appearing with him at the news conference were several victims of violent crime.  Johnson said Chicago’s poor record of arresting offenders for shootings and killings has left too many families needing "closure."

Johnson declined to answer directly when asked if he’d fill the department’s current vacancies. They total about 1,600, according to some estimates. A spokesman for the Johnson campaign, Bill Neidhardt, later called FOX 32 News to say, "We’re not going to make a pledge to fill all the vacancies."


"Look, I get it," Johnson said at the news conference. "People are talking about policing as a strategy. But, keep in mind, that is the strategy that has led to the failures we are experiencing right now."

Johnson promised to double spending on youth employment, which he called a more effective anti-violence strategy.

Every candidate for mayor promises some expansion of social services, especially mental health.  They all endorse some version of a pilot program the Lightfoot Administration is now running in several police districts. The goal is to respond with mental health professionals when a caller to 9-1-1 indicates that might be appropriate.  Sources say it’s been a challenge to find enough trained people for what can be dangerous work.

Johnson also repeated a promise made by mayoral candidates here for decades: vowing to redeploy sworn officers now working desk jobs. Johnson said there are more than 900 of them.  Rich Daley, Rahm Emanuel and Lori Lightfoot made similar statements. 

One obstacle: the Fraternal Order of Police Union insists some "desk jobs" can only be best done by sworn police officers.

Campaign spokesman Bill Neidhardt sent FOX 32 News the following statement:

"Brandon Johnson’s priority is training and promoting 200 new detectives. We will also take mental health crisis response off the plate of police officers. That’s the fastest way to make CPD more efficient, not empty pledges from candidates to recruit 1,600 new officers overnight when police departments all over the country are struggling to hire."