A day after President Donald Trump declared he was ready to “send in the Feds” if Chicago can’t reduce its homicides, Mayor Rahm Emanuel warned against deploying the National Guard, saying it would hurt efforts to restore trust in the police.
Trump offered no details on what kind of federal intervention he was suggesting or if it could involve troops, but the mayor cautioned that using the military could make matters worse.
“We’re going through a process of reinvigorating community policing, building trust between the community and law enforcement,” the mayor told reporters Wednesday. Sending troops “is antithetical to the spirit of community policing.”
He said he welcomed federal help battling “gangs, guns and drugs.”
On Tuesday night, Trump tweeted: “If Chicago doesn’t fix the horrible ‘carnage’ going on, 228 shootings in 2017 with 42 killings (up 24% from 2016), I will send in the Feds!”
If the president was suggesting the use of federal troops, such a plan could face practical and constitutional obstacles. A law dating back to 1878 prohibits the deployment of federal troops to do the jobs of domestic police, with some rarely invoked exceptions.
In his campaign, Trump talked regularly about getting tough on crime, sometimes singling out Chicago, which was in the midst of a year in which the death toll soared to 762 — the most killings in the city in nearly two decades and more than New York and Los Angeles combined.
His tweet also came less than two weeks after the Justice Department issued a scathing report that found years of civil rights violations by Chicago police. The investigation was launched after the release of a video showing the 2014 death of a black teenager who was shot 16 times by a white officer.
The Justice Department documented cases in which officers shot people who did not pose a threat and used stun guns for no other reason except that people refused officers’ commands.
Emanuel, a Democrat who once worked as former President Barack Obama’s White House chief of staff, said the police department already partners with federal agencies such as the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration to combat crime, including efforts to halt the flow of illegal guns pouring into Chicago from elsewhere. He said he would like to see that cooperation “expanded dramatically.”
On Tuesday night, the mayor told WTTW’s “Chicago Tonight” that he welcomed government assistance in the form of more money to hire officers and more resources to track illegal guns. But he also bluntly said the government has not done nearly enough, something he reiterated on Wednesday.
Over the years, he said, when it comes to after-school activities, summer jobs and other youth programs, the government “has walked away.”
Trump’s tweet came a day after Emanuel criticized Trump for worrying about the size of the crowd at his inauguration.
The figures cited by Trump are the same as those published Monday in the Chicago Tribune. The tweet was posted about the time Tuesday evening that the figures were cited on Fox television’s “O’Reilly Factor.”
The numbers were slightly different from the latest tally by the Chicago Police Department. As of Tuesday, police said, 234 people have been shot in 2017, including 38 who died. At this point last year, 227 people had been shot, including 33 deaths.
Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi explained that the department’s numbers are slightly different because they do not include shootings by officers, shootings that were considered “justified,” such as those that were in self-defense, and shootings that were investigated by state police because they occurred on expressways.
It appears that the president’s numbers for homicides came from the county’s medical examiner’s office, Guglielmi said.
Earlier this month, before he took office, Trump tweeted that Emanuel should ask for federal help if he isn’t able to bring down the number of homicides.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez, a Chicago Democrat, called the president the “tweeter-in-chief” and said Trump would “rather spend his time on Twitter” than look for ways to reduce gun violence.
“The president wants publicity and to be seen beating up on Democratic elected officials and appearing hostile to a big city like Chicago in the eyes of his suburban and rural voters,” Gutierrez said.
Another Chicago Democrat, Rep. Mike Quigley, called Trump’s threat “reckless and misguided” and a “gross overreach of federal power.” He called on the president to increase funding for federal programs that he said were cut by Republicans but would help local law enforcement. He also called on Trump to support “commonsense, pragmatic gun laws.”