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Brandon Johnson Responds to Concerns Over His Public Safety Platform in Mayoral Forum – NBC Chicago

Despite steering clear of the phrase throughout his mayoral campaign, previous comments from Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson that called defunding the police “a political goal” have garnered criticism throughout the mayoral campaign, with the comments resurfacing during Wednesday night’s forum.

Johnson addressed concerns over his positions on policing by touting a plan to promote 200 detectives, while advocating for other agencies to respond to mental health crises, which the Commissioner says will allow police officers more time to deal with violent crime.

While advocating for the promotion of detectives, Johnson did not mention a concrete plan to fill the department’s vacancies, instead emphasizing plans to address mental health crises with other city agencies.

When asked what he would do to make Chicagoans feel safer, Johnson mentioned strengthening “red flag” gun laws while slamming for Vallas for receiving the endorsement of hedge fund manager Ken Griffin, who has contributed to several major Republican campaigns nationwide.

As for outgoing CPD Supt. David Brown, both Vallas and Johnson voiced support for replacing the embattled CPD leader prior to the announcement of his resignation, with both candidates pledging to promote a new superintendent from within the department.

Johnson said he would make his choice by being “a collaborator”, expressing that leaders of all city agencies need to represent Chicago while reiterating that the top candidate would be “competent, collaborative and compassionate.”

Though both candidates were pressed on specific names they were considering to replace Brown, both Vallas and Johnson declined to name any officers on their shortlist.

Johnson and Vallas were also questioned on how they would improve an incredibly low clearance rate of 0.3 percent on hit-and-run crashes, with Johnson once again touting his plan to promote 200 detectives to help investigate unsolved cases.

The Cook County Commissioner went on to say that rank-and-file officers need consistency in who they are reporting to, arguing that Chicago police officers have “supervisors who supervise the supervisors.”

Vallas countered, arguing that promoting 200 detectives would continue to leave rank-and-file vacancies while stressing his priority to fill 1,700 open positions in the CPD.

While Johnson emphasized the need for new detectives in the department to help improve clearance rates and morale, Vallas touted support from rank-and-file officers that would incentivize retired officers to return to the force.

Though the candidates perhaps showcased their most drastic differences in their answers on public safety, both Vallas and Johnson advocated for expanding youth employment as a way to combat systemic issues and improve public safety.

Commissioner Johnson highlighted hiring youth as the first concrete action he would take as mayor, adding that he would create a year-round hiring program for youth while drawing a connection between crime and lack of youth employment.

“There is a direct correlation between youth employment and violence reduction. I’m going to do that right away. As a public school teacher, teaching in Cabrini Green, USA. teaching middle school still gets looked into the eyes of young people, when when they’re feeling a less little less hope,” Johnson said.

The two candidates were then asked what they have in common toward the forum’s end, where Vallas complimented Johnson’s commitment to youth employment.

“I think we’ve learned things from each other. For example, the universal work study program for high school kids for the last four years. The idea that all of our high schools can offer work study with city agencies, city departments, city contractors, etc. We can literally put tens of thousands of young people to work in paid work, study jobs, you want to get people, the young people off the street and introduce them to the best role models in the community, men working men or woman that’s going to do it,” Vallas said.

The two candidates will face off in the Chicago mayoral runoff election on April 4.