Chicago Police Chief Eddie Johnson
Dear Commons Community,
Back in July, President Trump attacked Baltimore as a “rat-infested mess” and disparaged Congressman Elijah Cummings. Yesterday, Trump visited Chicago for the first time since taking office, attending a closed-door fundraiser at his own hotel and speaking at the annual conference of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. He used the speech to attack the host city, reciting a handful of violent crime statistics and blaming shootings on gun control. “Chicago has the toughest gun laws in the United States,” Trump falsely claimed. “That doesn’t seem to be working too well, does it?” He then called Chicago more dangerous than Afghanistan.
“It’s embarrassing to us as a nation,” the president said. “All over the world, they’re talking about Chicago. Afghanistan is a safe place by comparison.”
Murders and shootings in the city are at a four-year low, Chicago police data show.
Trump also took the opportunity to bash Chicago Police Chief Eddie Johnson, who personally boycotted Trump’s remarks by saying that “the values of the people of Chicago are more important than anything that he would have to say.”
“I have to take into account not just my personal feelings about it, but our core values as a city,” Johnson said of his decision earlier this week not to attend Trump’s speech. “We need the immigrant communities to trust their police department. We don’t need them to fear us and then to flee us.”
Trump responded by calling Johnson’s remarks “very insulting,” claiming he’s “done more than any president has ever done for the police.”
President Trump used his first trip to Chicago as president to publicly disparage the city and its police chief, who had boycotted his appearance.
“It’s embarrassing to us as a nation, all over the world they’re talking about Chicago,” Trump said Monday in a speech at the International Association of Chiefs of Police Annual Conference. “Afghanistan is a safe place by comparison.”
Before the event, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson told reporters that he would not attend Trump’s speech in protest of what he called the president’s “racial insults.”
“I can’t in good conscience stand by while racial insults and hatred are cast from the Oval Office or Chicago is held hostage because of our views on new Americans,” Johnson said.
Trump scolded Johnson in response, blaming him for not stemming violent crime.
“Since Eddie Johnson has been police chief, more than 1,500 have been murdered in Chicago,” Trump said. “And 13,067 people have been shot.”
Violent crime in Chicago has actually been on the decline since 2016, the year Johnson was appointed superintendent. According to the Chicago Tribune, homicides and shootings in 2019 are down 11 percent from this time a year ago. And the number of shootings is down more than 26 percent this year compared with 2016.
And according to Chicago Police Department data cited by the Associated Press, the number of homicides in the city has dropped 31 percent thus far in 2019, compared with the same point in 2016, and shooting incidents have decreased by 38 percent over that same period.
During a press briefing later yesterday, Johnson touted the reductions in crime on his watch.
“The progress that we’ve made as a city has gone unnoticed,” Johnson said. “We’re certainly not where we want to be, but we’ve made progress … The national narrative that we’re a city on fire is just simply not true.”
“My job is to keep the city safe,” he added. “I’ve been a cop 31 years, I’ve been a superintendent for four years. I’ve dedicated my life to keeping this city safe. And that is my focus.”
The president also criticized Johnson for failing to detain undocumented immigrants.
“Eddie Johnson wants to talk about values,” Trump said. “People like Johnson put criminals and illegal aliens before the citizens of Chicago. And those are his values. And frankly those values to me are a disgrace. … I want Eddie Johnson to change his values and change them fast.”
The president said Johnson’s support of so-called sanctuary cities, like Chicago, is “a betrayal of the oath of the shield” and “a violation of his duty to serve and to protect.”
Trump likes to insult prominent African-Americans and the places in which they live because it appeals to those in his base who are racists and bigots.