Paul Vallas, Brandon Johnson offer diametrically opposed approaches to public safety at UIC forum

Eric Horng Image
Wednesday, March 15, 2023
Vallas, Johnson offer opposing platforms at public safety forum
Chicago mayoral candidates Brandon Johnson and Paul Vallas offered drastically different approaches to public safety at a UIC forum Tuesday night.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- At a forum hosted by the University of Illinois at Chicago, mayoral candidates Brandon Johnson and Paul Vallas offered up diametrically opposed approaches to public safety.

The two candidates both agree officers are overburdened and far too often are responding to calls that should go to mental health professionals.

But on other issues of public safety, they offered dramatically different ideas.

The large crowd at the forum included crime victims and violence prevention advocates.

READ MORE: Poll shows tight race between Vallas,Johnson

"We've lost a thousand police officers in the last two years," Vallas said. "In an average year, we would lose 335 police officers. The right leaders, the right strategy, the right approach will slow the exodus.

Vallas said he would put more cops on CTA platforms and trains, establish a witness protection program, and assign more officers to beats, a strategy of community policing Johnson called into question.

"Why are we describing policing as a community effort only in Black and brown communities?" he wondered. "How about you just love people enough and be prepared and willing to do your job, and you don't have to have an extra sort of dynamic attached to the, to the dynamic of policing?"

Johnson said he would immediately promote 200 officers to detectives, but said the overall answer isn't more cops but more investment in impoverished areas.

RELATED: Abortion rights PAC endorses Johnson; Vallas endorsed by Cardenas

He once again pushed back on being characterized as wanting to "defund the police."

"There are people who want to see the police budget defunded," he said. "I said it was a political goal. I never said it was mine."

Tuesday Johnson was endorsed at Rainbow PUSH and by the abortion rights group Personal PAC, while Vallas picked up support from two Latino elected leaders who criticized Johnson's tax plan.

The candidates will debate in our ABC7 studios on Thursday.

You can watch "The People's Forum" at 7 p.m. on our digital channel 7.2, and on our streaming platforms.

You can also watch it Friday night after ABC7 Eyewitness News at 10 p.m. It will be rebroadcast on Sunday at 4 p.m.