CHICAGO — Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Monday stood by his contention that Chicago police officers are becoming “fetal” out of concern they will get in trouble for actions during arrests, blaming officers second-guessing themselves in the wake of high-profile incidents for rising crime rates in Chicago and elsewhere.
Last week, the mayor was part of a meeting in Washington, D.C., with Attorney General Loretta Lynch and a group of mayors and police officials from across the nation to discuss a spike in homicides and other crime.
“We have allowed our police department to get fetal and it is having a direct consequence. They have pulled back from the ability to interdict … they don’t want to be a news story themselves, they don’t want their career ended early, and it’s having an impact,” Emanuel said, according to the Washington Post.
On Monday, Emanuel pointed to that tentativeness as one of the causes of an increase in crime here this year. “What happened post-Baltimore, what happened post-Ferguson is having an impact,” Emanuel said. “And I still believe recent events over the last year or 18 months have had an impact. And officers will tell you that. And I tried to speak up for the good officers that are doing community policing that make up the men and women of the Chicago Police Department.”
Emanuel’s decision to blame violent crime increases in part on the after-effects of the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody in Baltimore and the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., cases that led to rioting in those cites, comes as Chicago sees violence on the uptick.
September was Chicago’s deadliest month since 2002, with 60 homicides. Through Sept. 27, homicides and shootings had risen 21 percent from the year-earlier period, Police Department numbers show. Most of the City Council’s black aldermen last week called for Emanuel to fire police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, but the mayor said he supports his top cop.
On Monday, the mayor said a group of beat officers told him recently that they have begun to hesitate before stopping people on the street for fear they could get in trouble.
“Officers themselves are telling me about how the news over the last 15 months impacted their instincts: Do they stop or do they keep driving?” Emanuel said at an unrelated news conference. “When I stop here, is it going to be my career on the line? And that’s an honest conversation. And all of us who want officers to be pro-active, to be able to do community policing in a pro-active way, have to encourage them, so it’s not their job on the line or that judgment call all the time that if they stop, this could be a career-ender.”