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Emanuel: Cops ‘slow’ to respond to gang split behind homicide spike

The Chicago Police Department was “slow react” splintering street gangs thdrove spike homicide rate Mayor Rahm Emanuel during an interview

The Chicago Police Department was “slow to react” to the splintering of street gangs that drove a spike in the homicide rate, Mayor Rahm Emanuel during an interview with New York Times columnist David Brooks in Washington D.C. | Lynn Sweet~Sun-Times

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Updated: April 1, 2014 10:21AM

The Chicago Police Department was “slow to react” to the splintering of street gangs that drove a spike in the city’s homicide rate, Mayor Rahm Emanuel acknowledged Thursday.

Emanuel made the rare admission during an interview with New York Times columnist David Brooks before a live audience at the Brookings Institution, a Washington D.C. think tank. It was the mayor’s second trip to the nation’s capital this week.

Brooks turned to Chicago’s “murder spike,” talking about how the killings made national headlines and asked the mayor to “walk us through what you did and was it was like being in the middle of it.”

Emanuel responded with a rare moment of introspection. He said Chicago Police are “making progress now,” but success required the department to be more nimble and “adopt different tactics” on a daily basis.

“We made some changes in the police department. I don’t think we were totally where we needed to be. . . . We had arrested the gang leadership (in) part of my tenure correctly. . . . So there was no leadership in these gangs. And they had broken down and dissolved and there was internecine gang warfare,” the mayor said.

“So it wasn’t two gangs fighting each other. It was two groups inside of these gangs fighting each other for turf with leadership that was much younger than 30. They have a different perspective. And we as a police department and as a city, [were] slow to react to that.”

The mayor said “once we caught on what we were doing,” a series of new programs were put in place that reduced crime by “interceding before the retribution shooting.”

Emanuel doesn’t normally admit mistakes in public, nor does he allow his staff to acknowledge missteps.

He has publicly second-guessed himself only one other time — after an early confrontation with organized labor over his demand for work-rule changes to replace morale-killing furlough days.

Labor leaders who hadn’t supported Emanuel when he was running for mayor stood their ground, prompting layoffs. That prompted Emanuel to bemoan the strident tone he took with labor during that early test.

“I could have let that process be more quiet here at this table,” Emanuel said, during an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times on the anniversary of his first year in office.

“You could argue that I could have done it different. Labor could have done it different. I’m responsible for what I do.”

This time, the second-guessing involves Police Supt. Garry McCarthy, who has been credited recently for an encouraging drop in Chicago’s homicide rate and overall crime rate.

Two years ago, McCarthy launched his “gang violence reduction strategy” with a “gang audit” that provided updated information on 600 gang factions and their members.

The results — including which blocks are controlled by which gangs and the names of the gang members — were delivered to beat cops in Chicago’s most dangerous districts.

The goal was to allow beat cops to move more quickly to stop retaliatory shootings by knowing the players on both sides of the conflict.

McCarthy also ordered tactical officers to make controlling gang violence their sole focus and to stop leaving their districts without top brass approval — except for emergencies such as police shootings.

More recently, McCarthy ordered his staff to respond to gang shootings by drawing up a list of warring gang leaders in the area, then knocking on their doors to warn them to stop the shooting and give them a contact card for job training and social services.

The so-called “custom notifications” have so far been delivered to 50 people in six police districts. Early results have been promising.

Contributing: Frank Main

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