CHICAGO - Chicago’s police superintendent said Monday that he plans to flood the city’s streets with additional officers during the long July 4 weekend in an effort to avoid a repeat of particularly bloody recent weekends and despite pressure to keep officer overtime to a minimum.
“We didn’t do it last weekend and the Memorial Day weekend,” Superintendent David Brown said of the two weekends that ended with a combined total of 111 people being shot, 24 fatally. “This weekend ... we’ll have an additional 1,200 cops every day from Thursday through Sunday.”
Brown took over as superintendent during the coronavirus pandemic, when there was a furious effort to release as many jail detainees as possible to keep them from contracting the virus. The number of Cook County Jail inmates decreased by more than 1,600 between May 1 and June 1. But on Monday, Brown vowed to push others in the criminal justice system to keep those arrested on drug and gun charges locked up longer.
“We’re pleading (with the court system) to keep them in jail for the weekend,” he said, explaining that the people arrested for dealing or buying drugs on street corners may not be charged with violent crimes, but that such activity often leads to gun fights between violent gangs.
As his predecessors did when talking about a bloody weekend, Brown said the most recent spasm of gunfire ended not just with the deaths of rival gang members but with the killing of children. This time the innocent victims included a 1-year-old riding in a car with his mother and a 10-year-old girl who was inside her home when a bullet fired a block away pierced a window and struck her in the head as she sat on a couch.
Brown also alluded to the reality of life in some neighborhoods where residents have been reluctant to come forward with information that might help detectives solve violent crimes because they don’t trust the police.
“For God’s sake, for the sake of Chicago’s children, please help us bring these murderers to justice,” Brown said, referring to the gunmen as “evil bastards.”
“Silence empowers those who continue to terrorize our neighborhoods,“he said.
There is no doubt that the July 4 weekend stands as the biggest test for Brown since he become superintendent two months ago, largely because the bloodshed over the long Memorial Day weekend — when 49 people were shot, including 10 who died — was widely viewed as a failure in his first major test on the job.
While mayors are typically reluctant to criticize superintendents so early in their tenure, Mayor Lori Lightfoot didn’t mince words after Memorial Day weekend, though she has since maintained that she still has confidence in Brown.
“This was a fail, and whatever the strategy is, it didn’t work,” Lightfoot told reporters at the time.
Chicago typically experiences more gun violence during holiday weekends in the warmer months, so it has been particularly worrying that the bloodshed has continued at an alarming rate during the non-holiday weekends that followed Memorial Day.
In all, the city that saw drops in the number of shootings in over the past three years, this year it is a different story, as nearly six months into the year, there have been 82 more homicides and 530 more shooting victims than during the same period last year.
In addition to having to deal with a jump in violent crime, the department has been dealing with the fallout from troubling and embarrassing videos of incidents involving officers during protests and unrest following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. One video showed an officer making an obscene gesture to protesters, while another showed officers smashing the windows of a car and yanking two unarmed women out of it. The most recent video showed officers lounging in a congressman’s office as people broke into nearby stores during a night of unrest.