This past week, I had two opportunities to hear from Chicago’s newest superintendent of police, Eddie Johnson. Unlike predecessor Gary McCarthy’s VIP listening tour, which was an “invitation only/secret location” event, Eddie’s tour has been open to the general public. How refreshing!
Both events took place in Austin. The first one, held on Wednesday, May 4, was at Hope Community Church, 5900 W. Iowa, and the second one took place on Saturday, May 7 at Alderman Emma Mitts’ office (37th Ward). At both events, I listened carefully to what the new superintendent had to say.
First and foremost, Eddie comes across as a likeable and approachable person who truly cares about this city, its residents and most of all is cognizant of the tightrope he has been asked to walk. That tightrope is the fine line between the citizens’ complaints and the police force’s morale.
Just like most people referred to our former mayor by his first name, Harold, I am already feeling that this superintendent will be known by his first name, too — not as a sign of disrespect but because there is something about his manner that makes me believe he is speaking the truth when he responds. He is not quick to respond with “pat” answers — at least not yet. I pray and hope he never does.
One of the things that will make Eddie unlikeable elsewhere is speaking the truth. He acknowledges that there is racism in America and racism in Chicago and thus it follows that there is racism within the Chicago Police Department. It is his job and he will deal with the police on their side of that tightrope. He is having the latest graduating class of white recruits spend time with high school students so that both get to see and know the other side of the fence. It is not the answer to all, but it’s a start.
At the same time, Eddie has been quite vocal in reminding the African American community that we are disproportionately represented in the crime statistics. I checked and white people are 62% of America while blacks only account for 13% of the population. The latest available Department of Justice crime statistics (2012-13) shows victims by race when the offender is black as: 40.9% (by other blacks); 38.6% (whites); 14.5% (Hispanics); and 5.9% (others). Those figures are nothing to be proud of.
I’ll say it more bluntly than Eddie did. The black community has a criminal element living in our houses, on our blocks and within this city. Eddie asked how many of us knew any 16-year-olds who own their own houses or rent their own apartments. Not a single person volunteered that they knew of any. So the reality is that our criminal element is living under someone’s roof. Whereas the police used to be dealing with 18- and 19-year-old criminals, the ages have now dropped to 15- and 16-year-olds. Whose fault is that? Some of us need to do a mirror test.
Is there any shame in the amount of crime being committed by black people? When little children are shot riding in a car because some moron wants to fire a gun wildly, what are we saying and doing? Even this past Mother’s Day didn’t put a halt on the senseless violence. The headlines read, 49 shootings, 7 fatal.
But nary a march will be made on the households of any of those shooters. Why?