Chicago mayoral candidate Brandon Johnson appears to change position on police staffing

After declining for months to commit to filling the Chicago Police Department’s growing number of vacant jobs, Brandon Johnson now says he would.

A campaign spokesman, though, claims it’s not a policy reversal.

FOX 32 Chicago first noticed it at our mayoral forum Wednesday night. After Paul Vallas renewed his pledge to bring the Chicago Police Department to full strength by hiring 1,600 new officers, Johnson responded.

"Look, obviously those vacancies need to be filled," Johnson said. "But we're having a challenge all over the country."

Political editor Mike Flannery interjected, "the vacancies of the 1,600?"

Johnson replied, "Of the 1,600. But we're having challenges all over the country finding police officers to serve."


Indeed, the number applying to become police officers is down dramatically across the country. There is also a shortage of mental health professionals, whom Johnson has claimed could quickly be hired to answer some 9-1-1 emergency calls.

Commissioner Johnson was once an outspoken supporter of reducing police funding, sponsoring a Cook County Board resolution to that effect. After announcing for mayor, Johnson said he would not "defund the police."

In February’s first round of mayoral voting, Johnson was the only major candidate who would not promise to refill the rapidly shrinking ranks of the Chicago PD. Nearly a thousand officers resigned, retired or died last year.

Now, Johnson says he always planned to fill every vacancy. He told Crain’s Chicago Business this week he made no promises because he did not want to mislead the public ahead of the April 4th election.

"Because people believe that when someone says they're gonna hire a thousand more cops, people believe that's gonna happen April 6th," Johnson said. "That's irresponsible. And no one should run a government with that type of lazy and sloppy response."

The Vallas campaign responded, "Public safety is too important an issue for Brandon Johnson to continue to mislead the public with lies and deceptions....denying his very public statements about defunding the police."

It typically takes about year before a newly hired, probationary police officer is out on street patrol.

The Johnson campaign issued a statement Saturday morning clarifying the candidate's stance on the issue. 

"Brandon Johnson has been consistent in prioritizing public safety solutions that can work right away to build a stronger, better, safer Chicago, like promoting 200 new detectives. He’s said repeatedly that CPD will continue to hire and recruit new officers, and has put out ideas on how to recruit more officers into the force, by removing barriers to entry for potential officers of color. What he won’t do is make dishonest, false promises to immediately hire thousands of new officers when there’s a nationwide shortage, or bring hundreds of officers out of retirement, an idea so absurd that a former top CPD official called it ‘dishonest, uninformed, or naive.'"

Campaigning to become Chicago’s fourth Black mayor, Johnson on Friday reminded senior citizens that Election Day, April 4th, is also an important date in Black history.

"Dr. King said, ‘If we can do it in Chicago, we can do it anywhere.’ So let's do it, Chicago!"

April 4th is the day 55 years ago that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed in Tennessee.

While Johnson is hoping to build Black voter turnout, which was disappointingly low in the first round of mayoral voting back in February, Alderman Roberto Maldonado is working to build Hispanic turnout for Paul Vallas, stressing equity and safety.

"Because I think that if they know what Paul Vallas stands for, they will vote by and large for Paul Vallas," Maldonado said.

"I was talking to a business owner on the South Side yesterday who has been broken into seven times in the last year. Seven times in the last year! And I don't think the police have made a single arrest," Vallas said.

At a senior citizens center, Johnson talked about his anti-crime plan.

"I’m going to double the amount of young people that we hire, not just for summer jobs but for year-round jobs. Because that's violence prevention, funding our schools, funding our parks and recreation, making sure that we have good paying jobs and making sure our seniors can walk the block without fear," Johnson said.