Will 1,000 new cops solve Chicago's problems?

Chicago has a huge problem in need of a solution and it’s not going to be found through any sort of Social Justice Warrior revolution. The city is in the midst of a crime wave not seen in a generation and they are on a record breaking pace for murders and shootings. Gang violence is out of the control and the bad guys have little or no fear of the police in too many cases. To their credit, law enforcement in the Windy City is attempted to gain some ground, evidenced by the beginning of the first major gang trial in many years. It’s a good start and sends an important message, but even the cops will tell you that one trial isn’t going to change anything substantively over the long run. There are simply too many bad actors waiting in the wings to fill any power vacuum which results.

So what’s the answer? Maybe we need more of an army fighting the bad guys. At least that’s part of the message contained in the city’s latest move to add roughly 1,000 new law enforcement officers to the payroll. (CNN)

At a Wednesday afternoon news conference, Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson is expected to announce that his department will be adding 970 hires to the force. The announcement is being billed as a “major policy address.”

The hires, which will take place over a span of two years, will include 516 patrol officers, 92 field training officers, 200 detectives, 112 sergeants and 50 lieutenants, according to Chicago police.

“The new hiring announcement is on top of any existing departmental vacancies and will increase the total authorized strength of the police department,” a police news release said.

Let’s not undersell this proposal. An influx of one thousand officers in a two year period is huge. The only real question is how they will be used and if it can help prompt a cultural shift at the street level. Just having more officers on patrol in the most violent areas will almost certainly slow criminal activity, but it doesn’t get to the heart of the gang culture and the grip they seem to have on many communities. Families who may live in fear of gang violence in Chicago need to be able to trust that the police are not only working in their best interest but will be there to keep them safe from retaliation. When you reach that level of community interaction you just might hit a tipping point where the gangs begin to lose their grip on the entire social structure.

The community involvement aspect has two faces as well. On the one side, you want the residents who are not supporting criminal enterprise to feel safe and place their trust in law enforcement. But the flip side to that equation comes with the cops’ interaction with the gangs themselves. As we previously saw, community leaders have admitted that the gangs don’t know the cops and they most certainly don’t fear them. That needs to change. Rather than wringing their hands and debating how any action will be perceived in the press, the cops need to be able to take the streets back. That will require the full support of City Hall and the courts. Otherwise we’ll have hesitant police displaying the Ferguson Effect and all of these extra uniforms simply won’t get the job done.