Chicago mayoral election: Paul Vallas, Brandon Johnson share differing views on public safety

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Friday, March 31, 2023
Chicago mayoral election: Paul Vallas, Brandon Johnson share differing views on public safety
Public safety is an issue that has dominated the race.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- We're just five days away from Chicago selecting its next mayor.

Brandon Johnson and Paul Vallas have some differing views on how to lead the city.

ABC7 takes a closer look at one of the biggest issues in this race.

Public safety is an issue that has dominated the race.

Endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, Vallas says more beat cops and detectives is the answer. Johnson says crime can only be solved with a more holistic approach.

However, the fear of crime -- whether it's reality or perception -- Chicagoans don't feel safe.

From his very first TV ad, Vallas has framed himself as a throwback law and order candidate.

"This is a candidate who thinks old-style policing can be successful and is needed to bring public safety back to Chicago," said David Greising, with the Better Government Association.

Johnson, on the other hand, believes crime can be solved with more investments in mental health, housing, education and social services. If he is elected, Johnson said his first order of business will be coming up with a comprehensive public safety plan.

"That plan is going to be put together by a collective group of people, business leaders the faith community," Johnson said.

To boost arrest rates, Johnson said he will immediately hire and train 200 more detectives.

"One of the challenges we have in Chicago is we are not solving crime here," Johnson said.

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But, Vallas said 200 is not nearly enough. He is calling for 10% of the department to be assigned to detectives. In addition, Vallas plans to fill about 1100 vacancies with the goal of reassigning city-wide units to local beats. He also plans to replace 300 private CTA security officers with Chicago police to patrol platforms and trains.

"I'm absolutely convinced there are hundreds of officers who are poised to return from retirement, who will in fact return in almost 30 days," Vallas said.

Some public safety experts doubt that many officers will return to the force from retirement so quickly. In addition, former Mayor Rahm Emanuel's deputy chief of public safety, Walter Katz, points out it can take more than a year before a new officer is ready to hit the streets.

"There are multiple steps that go into hiring a police officer, from physical exams to background checks to psychology examination," Katz said.

While Vallas and Johnson have different approaches to solving crime, both agree the next police superintendent should not be an outsider.

"I'm going to promote from within the department, officers that are respected into the superintendent position," Vallas said.

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"Someone who is willing to do the work, someone who is willing to roll up their sleeves and not sit behind the desk and be on the ground with the officers," Johnson described.

Public safety is also about how to police.

While Vallas and Johnson support fully implementing the consent decree, they differ on how officers should be deployed.