Frustrated Top Cop Calls for Tougher Gun Laws

The City of Chicago closed out the month of July with 65 murders and 362 shooting incidents.

One of those incidents was Sunday. Police say no one was injured, but they did make an arrest and retrieve the 5,000th illegal gun.

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Police can't say much other than they arrested a 17-year-old who is now facing gun charges in juvenile court.

But Superintendent Eddie Johnson says he's extremely frustrated by the same thing that frustrated his predecessor, Garry McCarthy.

Johnson, too, is making the case for stronger gun laws. He says so far in 2016, his department has made 1,900 gun arrests, a 7-percent increase over the first seven months of 2015.

And those 5,000 illegal guns—which include weapons purchased in the gun buy-back program—that's 25 percent more guns seized than the same time period last year.

Johnson says his department knows of most of those involved in these incidents—either as victims or offenders.

“The department knows these individuals. They’re on our Strategic Subject List, which identifies the likelihood of an individual to be a party of violence either as an offender or victim,” Johnson said. “Year-to-date for 2016, nearly 85 percent of all our shooting victims both nonfatal and fatal are on this list. Let me say that one more time: Nearly 85 percent of all of our shooting victims this year both nonfatal and fatal are on the strategic subject list.”   

Johnson went on to say the city recovers seven times per capita more guns than the New York Police Department, and two times more per capita than the Los Angeles Police Department.

Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson at a press conference Monday.Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson at a press conference Monday.

He says he supports legislation from state Sen. Kwame Raoul which would establish guidelines that would keep repeat offenders in prison until an "adequate amount of time is served," but still give judges discretion to impose lighter sentences when mitigating circumstances call for it.

“We’re doing a good job of arresting people and recovering these weapons. But we absolutely drop the ball when it comes to holding people accountable. These repeat gun offenders are telling us they don’t want to play by the same rules,” Johnson said.

“They’re telling us that, so if they’re telling us that then it’s our obligation to tell them, ‘OK, we understand that. We’re going to give you some place to sit down until you decide you’re going to play right.’ But until we hold repeat gun offenders accountable for their actions, we’re going to continue to see this violence.”

Over the weekend, Johnson placed three officers involved in the shooting of 18-year-old Paul O'Neal on desk duty.

For now, the video of that shooting is in the hands of the Independent Police Review Authority to investigate.

“Chicago Tonight” does know that there is dashcam video and all three of the police officers involved were wearing body cameras. But police confirmed Monday, that the third body camera, possibly the one worn by the officer who fired the fatal shot, was not turned on.

Read: Fraternal Order of Police President Dean Angelo speaks about the police-involved shooting of Paul O’Neal and the union’s call for police officers to reject Labor Day weekend overtime.

Police say they're investigating why, but remind “Chicago Tonight” that the body camera program was a pilot program and the cops involved in this recent shooting had only been wearing them for a week or so.

No word from IPRA yet on when they plan to release that video to the public, but it has 60 days to do so under policy adopted from the Police Accountability Task Force report.

Holiday weekends are typically violent ones for Chicago, and the police department is planning for Labor Day weekend.

Johnson says the department is still prepared even if officers turn down the overtime they often work when additional manpower is needed.

Just last week, the police union, the Fraternal Order of Police, called on officers to voluntarily reject the overtime in light of the attacks on police officers in other cities.

Monday, a group called the Black Star Project, joined with several other neighborhood organizations, like Peace in Englewood and St. Sabina Church in Auburn-Gresham to say they disagree with the union's suggestion but still plan to have their own community-wide peace effort that weekend.

But the group, which includes Violence Interrupters (formerly known as CeaseFire) President Tio Hardiman, believes no amount of overtime will quell the violence.

Tio HardimanTio Hardiman

“The police presence does not bring violence down. I mean, the numbers speak for themselves. We’ve had over 2,200 people shot this year already. Close to 400 people killed in Chicago,” Hardiman said. “The police have tried strategy after strategy, different strategies. Now they’re talking about taking guns off the streets, overtime.

“They talk about increasing presence in hot areas but nothing appears to work because you cannot stop a killing, especially if you don’t know it’s about to happen,” he added. “That goes for a lot of the groups out here and the police because everybody’s showing up after the fact. It appears that people are in a response mode as opposed to being in a preventive or proactive mode.”

That group says it plans to have walking neighborhood patrols, peace parties, and even praying in the streets over Labor Day weekend—anything they can do to engage young people.

It also calls on foundations, corporations and the government to invest in communities with high crime rates, with resources like job training, parenting classes, mentoring and prison re-entry programs. 

Follow Brandis Friedman on Twitter: @BrandisFriedman

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