President Donald Trump on Monday said he has directed the Justice Department to work with law enforcement in Chicago to “straighten out the terrible shooting wave” in the city.
“We’re going to straighten it out. We’re going to straighten it out fast. There’s no reason for what’s going on there,” the president said in remarks at a law enforcement convention in Orlando. “I know the law enforcement people in Chicago, and I know how good they are. They could solve the problem if they were simply allowed to do their job and do their job properly and that’s what they want to do. So Chicago, we are going to start working with you as of today.”
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The president also suggested that civic leaders in Chicago actually might not want to curb the violence in Chicago, but that his administration would be there to help anyways.
“Let’s see whether or not Chicago, as an example, locally accepts help. They need it,” he said. “I assume they want to straighten it out. Sometimes I think, ‘maybe, is it possible that they don’t?’ But we’re going to be there. We’re going to try and help them.”
As a remedy for Chicago’s well-documented struggles with gun violence, Trump prescribed stop-and-frisk policing, a controversial practice that has been criticized by some as opening the door for racial profiling by law enforcement officers. Supporters of stop-and-frisk have credited it with reducing crime rates in cities where it has been implemented, most prominently in New York.
Trump said stop-and-frisk “works, and it was meant for problems like Chicago.” He cautioned that the practice has “got to be properly applied,” although he did not further outline its correct application.
Trump also said he has ordered the Justice Department to work with Chicago to change the “terrible deal” the city has with the American Civil Liberties Union. Under the terms of that agreement, which the president said “ties law enforcement’s hands,” groups including the ACLU, Black Lives Matter Chicago and the NAACP can offer input for reforms for the city’s police department.
“The crime spree is a terrible blight on that city, and we’ll do everything possible to get it done,” Trump said in his remarks in Orlando.
A spokesman for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel did not say whether the city had been contacted by the White House or Justice Department as part of the president’s announced initiative. But the Emanuel spokesman panned the president’s stop-and-frisk suggestion and touted improvement’s in the city’s homicide rate.
“Even someone as clueless as Donald Trump has to know stop-and-frisk is simply not the solution to crime,” Emanuel spokesman Matt McGrath said in a statement to POLITICO. “Just last week CPD reported there have been 100 fewer murders and 500 fewer shooting victims in Chicago this year, the second straight year of declines — all while we’ve been making reforms to restore trust with residents.”
He added: “The fact that he’s trotting out this tired rhetoric is another sign he’s worried about Republicans in the midterms.”
Trump’s directive comes after Attorney General Jeff Sessions addressed the “vicious cycle of crime, poverty, and low growth” during a speech in a Chicago suburb in September. The attorney general also allocated extra resources there earlier this year to curb gun violence.
Justice Department spokesman Sarah Isgur Flores referred questions about the president’s Chicago directive to the White House.
Trump has long fixated on violence in the Chicago, previously calling out the number of shootings that happen there and criticizing the city’s officials, both on the campaign trail and on Twitter.
Chicago’s high rate of gun violence is often cited by gun-rights supporters as evidence that strict gun control laws, such as the ones in place in Chicago, are ineffective. Supporters of tougher firearm regulations regularly counter that Chicago’s gun laws are undercut by relatively weaker laws in nearby states, including Indiana and Wisconsin.