A Chicago police detective investigates in an alley behind a home on South Yale Avenue after a man was shot on Sept. 6, 2021. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Chicago has more police officers per capita than most U.S. cities, including Los Angeles. But the city budgets only a tiny portion of money to services for housing and mental health.

Ald. Matt O’Shea and Susan Lee, former Chicago deputy mayor of public safety and current director of strategy & policy for Chicago CRED, (Arne Duncan’s philanthropy-funded venture) penned a piece with their perspective on public safety.

Their proposal: using scarce taxpayer resources to hire more police and spend on violence interrupter programs like those run by CRED.

Yes, we need to invest more in violence prevention and interruption programs and staff, but their proposal doesn’t address the root cause of violence: systemic racism and economic exclusion.

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After the riots of 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson estab­lished The National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (the Kerner Commission) to find the causes of the violence and how they could be stopped. The commission conducted extensive research involving visits to cities where riots happened, interviewing witnesses and consulting experts. The findings and recommendations are worth considering today.

Although the riots were triggered by police brutality, the commission found that the deeper cause was high levels of resentment and anger in Black communities arising from entrenched unemployment, persistent and extreme poverty, racial segregation, lack of economic and educational opportunities and police brutality.

The Kerner Commission recommended massive investments to create millions of good-paying jobs, dramatic expansion of educational opportunities, public housing and social service programs and police reform.

The Johnson Administration ultimately refused to go all in on the recommendations. We continued to rely heavily on policing and limit social services to the minimum. A punitive approach to criminal justice resulted in mass incarceration in numbers exponentially larger than in other developed countries. Law enforcement agencies grew and were militarized to fight the so-called War on Drugs. The “broken windows” approach to policing created heavy-handed aggression without hard evidence that this deterred drug trafficking or violence.

In Chicago, every crime spike since 1920 has resulted in more officers. We have more police officers per capita than most U.S. cities, including Los Angeles. The Chicago Police Department’s budget has nearly tripled since 1964, consuming close to 40% of the city’s corporate budget, while services for housing and mental health get only a tiny portion of the budget.

Violence prevention requires both street outreach work and massive investment in structures of care to back up that work. We need permanent public infrastructure to address the violence of inequity and systemic racism. More investment in policing means less resources for those investments.

With the city’s ARAP money, we can make those investments to fight poverty and meet the needs of our most marginalized communities. Let’s not continue to make the same costly mistakes, it’s time to make it right.

Ald. Rossana Rodríguez Sánchez (33rd), Ald. Jeannette Taylor (20th) and Ald. Byron Sigcho López (25th)

A backward COVID world

So let me get this straight. As reported in Wednesday’s Sun-Times, the QAnon folks are campaigning for access to an animal deworming medication to fight off COVID-19. That story was to be found on page 4. Meanwhile at Brookfield Zoo, the staffs is administering the actual coronavirus vaccine to its animal residents, as a preventive measure. That story was on page 14.

There are days when I have to flip back to the front page to make sure I’m reading the Sun-Times rather than the Onion.

David R. Inman, Edgebrook

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