On Thursday, Chicago mayor-elect Brandon Johnson sat down with CBS Mornings to discuss his philosophy around policing in a city where crime continues to spiral out of control and residents feel increasinly unsafe.
The issue was one which Johnson, a progressive, and his moderate opponent Paul Vallas, disagreed upon. While Vallas called for more police officers on the streets, Johnson suggested that the number of cops was fine as is, and that the city should invest in other first responders such as therapists, emergency medical technicians, and social workers.
Johnson began by suggesting that in Chicago and across the United States, people had been "given a false choice" when it came to solving the crime epidemic, and that the focus should be placed on addressing the root causes of criminality.
"The way we do that is by investing in people," he said. "There's a direct correlation between youth employment and violence reduction; there's a tremendous correlation between providing mental healthcare services and reducing crime."
Johnson went on to invoke Treyvon Martin, Michael Brown, and other black men killed by law enforcement to illustrate his point that more police doesn't automatically mean safer streets.
"So if defunding the police isn't the answer," the host asked, "what do you plan to do with your resources?"
Johnson said he would be putting more money into the "areas of need," such as improving youth employment rates, and moving towards a "treatment not trauma" response to situations that warrant less force.
"First responders, social workers, counsellors, EMTs," Johnson said. "These individuals would show up to calls that require those types of interventions." He pointed out that in Chicago, 40 percent of all 911 calls were mental health crises.
"We're asking police to do their job and someone else's," he added. "That's not strategic."
Johnson went on to explain that to pay for his plans, he'd be raising taxes on businesses and the wealthy.
Similar tactics have been used in other American cities, such as Portland, which varying results. Critics have pointed out that in many cases, those experiencing mental health crises are violent as well, and thus police are necessary.
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