SOUTH LOOP — Mayoral candidate Ald. Sophia King (4th) is pushing for drones to be used in police pursuits and more officers to be deployed to the South Side.
With the Police Department’s 1st District station as a backdrop, King held a news conference Thursday where she blasted Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Police Supt. David Brown. She said technology needs to be used to cut down on foot chases, suggesting drones could help in catching people, and said more needs to be done to boost officer morale and mental health.
King, who announced her run for City Hall in August, acknowledged the ethical issues involving the use of drones and ShotSpotter — the latter of which has been widely criticized for being employed to overpolice marginalized communities — but said all concerns can be allayed with transparency.
“We can deploy drones as first responders, and they can chase offenders if need be. We can also use other technology better — ShotSpotter is a technology I would keep — but I would make sure that we use it better,” King said. “Technology is only as good as the people behind it.”
Police Department representatives did not respond to request for comment. The Mayor’s Office declined to comment.
King also said Lightfoot puts “public relations over public safety,” and she said she would fire Brown as part of her strategy to revamp community policing to restore trust between residents and law enforcement.
The alderperson also said she would, if elected, create a Chicago Reserve unit of 1,000 retired police officers to focus on nonviolent crime while adding 200 detectives to solve more murders.
King said the ideas are part of her newly released 10-point safety plans.
Other parts of the plan:
- Filling 1,600 police vacancies over the next two years and distributing officers more equitably across the city.
- Disbanding citywide task forces, returning 875 officers to their districts.
- Guaranteeing officers more off days by moving to a four-day, 10-hour, two-shift system.
- Dedicating $200 million to “dramatically” increase resources for violence intervention programs and creating an Office of Gun Violence Prevention.
- Expanding alternative responses to 911 and creating diversion programs for substance abuse, mental health matters and poverty.
- Reducing blight by maintaining the cleanliness of city-owned vacant lots.
- Implementing and enforcing the federal consent decree by 2027.
The alderwoman suggested funding for the drones could come via money saved from department vacancies.
Public safety has been top of mind for the mayoral candidate. The city has seen drops in some crimes since they surged during the earlier days of the pandemic, but much crime remains higher than it was pre-COVID.
“When I’m in the Downtown, I see nothing but blue lights flashing on every single corner. Meanwhile, there are studies and lawsuits that suggest our police are not where they need to be at the right time,” King king. “They are not at the places where the most crime is. We need to change that.”
King recently announced the launch of pilot program to address safety concerns in the 4th Ward, collaborating with Halo Security Group and Ex-Cons for Community and Social Change to have unarmed teams patrol parts of Grand Boulevard while focusing on violence prevention and intervention.
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