WASHINGTON — Amid calls for his resignation over his handling of the police shooting of a black teenager, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel will announce data at the end of January showing “heavy recruitment” of minority residents testing to be police officers, Emanuel told BuzzFeed News in an interview.
An aide to the mayor said the numbers are “through the roof” compared to other years the city has administered police exams. The city used targeted social media to recruit minority residents, the aide said.
Speaking to BuzzFeed News in the lobby of the Capital Hilton, where the U.S. Conference of Mayors convened this week, Emanuel declined to elaborate on his broader plan to rehabilitate the Chicago Police Department, but he seemed hopeful that the latest round of testing would put more minority officers on the street.
Emanuel's administration has been rocked by protests and calls for the mayor's resignation following the November release of video of the police shooting of Laquan McDonald. Chicago originally tried to block the release of the video, which contradicted the police narrative of the shooting, until the city was ordered by a court to disclose the footage.
“One of the things I strive towards is not just trust and cooperation,” President Obama’s former chief of staff told BuzzFeed News. “You can either have policing that patrols a neighborhood or policing that's part of a neighborhood. And you will be better at getting towards safety and security throughout some of the most difficult neighborhoods from a crime perspective if the police are seen and perceived as part of the community.”
Emanuel said he wants more of his police officers to participate in things like basketball tournaments and other activities to make them more visible in troubled communities. “There's a lot of things that [officers] can constantly do to create a police department that looks like the city," he said.
In addition to trying to recruit more minority officers, Emanuel said he’s also initiated a more open dialogue with the community by attending meeting with police commanders, chambers of commerce, and religious and other leaders. Emanuel described one such meeting where the citizens said they want more visible roll calls.
“I said, ‘Who here has stopped at the police station and just said thank you? You appropriately want to see roll calls out in the community for increased visibility, they also need to be told, when appropriate, thank you.' These are simple things but they all build towards [being] part of a community not simply patrolling it."
Emanuel also reiterated to BuzzFeed News his support for law enforcement officers, echoing the White House’s message that the overwhelming majority of them do their jobs well. He said those officers’ work is compromised when trust is low.
“We need to be on our game when an officer doesn’t live up to the professionalism they aspire to," he said. “They need to held accountable because they are undermining all the trust and cooperation that's essential for their colleagues to be effective and bring safety to the community.”
“Every night across the city of Chicago, there's hundreds of 911 calls," Emanuel continued. "You never read or hear about them, because our police officers answer them professionally. They too want their colleagues held to the highest standard of professionalism because anything that undermines that trust or cooperation undermines any one of their officer’s effectiveness. We have work to do as a city, like other cities, to create the procedures and oversight to demand the highest professionalism from our police officers because they are capable of delivering it. I see it all the time.”
Asked why he’d seemed optimistic about the challenges related to the shooting of McDonald, Emanuel said the issue of police and community relations is “longstanding in every city” and every Chicago mayor “has dealt with some issue as it relates to police use of force.”
“It's one thing if Chicago was the only city," Emanuel said. "Whether it's Baltimore, Ferguson, Charleston, New York, Cleveland, or the situation in San Francisco. Something happened in Miami recently. There's a new context to police use of force with mainly communities of color and how they feel put upon.”
“One of the first things I [told] my task force is we’ve had this 50 to 60 year policy of protecting the integrity of the investigation, that you don't let information out," he continued. "Well, the public today is in a different place. They want to know.”