Newly-elected mayor Brandon Johnson wasn’t the CPD’s first choice. What will his election mean for policing in Chicago?

The Chicago mayor’s election is one of the nation's most hotly contested political contests. With a progressive criminal justice reform candidate running against a tough-on-crime platform amid a wave of rising crime this year, the campaign seemed even weightier than usual.

The city of Chicago is deeply divided along racial and economic lines, with different communities often having distinct priorities and concerns. As a result, mayoral candidates often have to navigate complex and nuanced political terrain, appealing to a broad range of voters while also addressing the specific needs of different neighborhoods and constituencies.

The Chicago Mayor is often a key figure in national politics as well.

Media and political analysts closely follow the mayoral race in Chicago, with extensive coverage and analysis of the candidates’ policies, backgrounds, and political strategies.

The nature of the mayoral election in Chicago reflects the city’s unique political landscape and the high stakes involved in selecting a leader who can address the city’s complex challenges and represent the diverse interests of its residents.

Much depends on the Chicago mayor’s office — policy goals, budgetary constraints, Covid19 fallout; Chicago’s problems seem even more intractable in 2023 than usual, with skyrocketing rates of juvenile crime corresponding with the public school closures of 2020, 2021, and 2022.

Of course, as the Chicago Teacher’s Union is fond of pointing out — and indeed did point out when former Mayor Lori Lightfoot blamed the rash of carjacking juveniles on remote learning — correlation isn’t causation.

Alas, this is a deeply flawed argument. Long-term school closures can never be linked unequivocally to a rise in carjackings by juvenile offenders; because nothing can. Life isn’t a laboratory; there are too many variables, almost none of which can be controlled to prove beyond a doubt the cause-and-effect relationship between remote learning and a rise in crimes committed by minor offenders in Chicago.

Nor can the experiment of remote learning in 2020–2023 be repeated in a peer-reviewable scientific study.

The flaw is that if remote learning can’t be identified as a cause, nothing else can, either — in which case nothing is causing the rise in juvenile carjackings in Chicago.

How does Chicago’s new mayor plan to address the challenges of policing in Chicago?

One of the things the new Mayor promised to do while on the campaign trail is to implement the consent decree.

“The second thing that we have to do is actually implement the consent decree,” Mr. Johnson told interviewers in March. “It’s going to cost $50 million conservatively to make sure that we are adhering to the Department of Justice.”

“And so, this is something that we have to do and we can do right away,” he said. “We can actually enforce the laws that are on the books, our red flag laws, and make sure that we are prosecuting those individuals and work towards prevention. That’s really what it’s about. If you’re a mother, you would certainly rather prevent your child from being murdered and harmed than having their murder case solved, right?”

To enforce the consent decree in Chicago means to ensure that the city’s law enforcement agency, the Chicago Police Department (CPD), complies with the terms and requirements of the consent decree that was issued by a federal judge in 2019.

The consent decree was established as a result of an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) that found a pattern of unconstitutional policing practices and a lack of accountability within the CPD. The consent decree outlines specific reforms and changes that the CPD must implement to address these issues, such as improving officer training, creating a new use-of-force policy, and increasing transparency and accountability measures.

Enforcing the consent decree requires ongoing monitoring and oversight to ensure that the CPD is making progress in implementing these reforms and that it complies with the decree's requirements.

The use of consent decrees has been a controversial issue, with some arguing that they are an important tool for promoting police accountability and reform, while others argue that they infringe on local control and autonomy of law enforcement agencies.

New Mayor Brandon Johnson has argued repeatedly that enforcing the consent decree in Chicago is a critical step in addressing the systemic problems within the CPD and promoting constitutional policing practices that protect the rights and safety of all residents of the city.

Another major problem Chicago’s newest mayor will be anxious to tackle is likely to be the decades of learning loss preceded by pandemic school closures. Like the rise in carjackings by minor offenders, lower test scores and learning loss can’t be definitively blamed on remote learning.

But the latest dismal standardized test scores were a sobering reminder: The pandemic’s challenges are far from over.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)