Chicago Police Department leadership will be changing their schedules in anticipation of an increase in violence as weather warms and the city begins to open further during the coronavirus pandemic, the city's top cop said Monday.
The schedule change is expected to see district commanders switching from dayside hours to afternoon and evening shifts in nine Chicago districts that have previously reported the most violence.
"One of the things that's really important as the weather warms and we would likely will open up more - as far as being able to gather, have concerts, have special events, have large parties, pop up parties - we often times have violence associated with that," Chicago Police Supt. David Brown said during a news conference Monday. "So what we want to do is proceed with all hands on deck during the peak hours of when all of what we think will happen."
Brown likened the anticipated summer surge in activity to "The Great Gatsby."
"Think about the last global pandemic we had in this country," he told reporters. "What followed was the roaring 20s, and I don't know if you've read F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. So if all that pent up energy because we've been quarantined explodes with all of this, you know, people being out more, people being active in the outdoors - we want to make sure it's safe. And what that means is during the peak hours we need to be on point with our leadership and to lead from the front so that the rank and file can model our behavior as well and be on point as well."
And it's not just commanders who will likely see changes in their schedules. Brown said his message to officers heading into the summer is to be ready for anything.
"We might as a last resort cancel things off, particularly around our holidays and we've tried to communicate that repeatedly," Brown said. "Can't communicate that enough."
The city has already announced plans to continue reopening, potentially lifting all capacity restrictions as early as June 11, along with the rest of Illinois.
But after a particularly violent weekend, questions over the potential for summer violence in the city heightened.
At least six people were killed and 42 others wounded in shootings across Chicago over the weekend. A 2-year-old girl and a 13-year-old boy were among those shot, as well as two uniformed Chicago police officers.
"One is one too many, particularly when it's a young child," Brown said.
He noted as well that shootings of police are also rising in the city and are tracking at a higher pace than 2020.
"[Officers] run for danger and continue to risk their lives and I mentioned this on yesterday's presser - We know that the silent majority of people in this community and across the country recognize this, but the silent majority, were asking for you to be more vocal in supporting our officers," Brown said. "They need to be encouraged, it's a difficult time to be a police officer that I've seen in my 30-plus years as a police professional. And the challenges are monumental from not only, we have to embrace change, we have to embrace positive, we have to embrace more training, we have to embrace all of this criticism and change our culture. We do, while at the same time risk your life in the face of all these other challenges."
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot called it a "hard weekend," but said the rise in violence isn't limited to the city.
"Every major city in the country has seen an uptick in violence and it's for a number of reasons," Lightfoot said during an unrelated press conference. "And I won't go into the normal explanation that I do about the ecosystem, but fundamentally, every part of the public safety ecosystem from law enforcement to the court, the prosecutor to the community based organizations, has been dramatically affected by COVID-19. And we're just starting to see many of those resources that are usually present to support individuals and family come back online, but not every part of that ecosystem is 100% there. We have never left, and we're never going to leave, but we need our partners, to be part of this journey with us and so that's some of the work that we are doing across the city, across the county, across the state, and with our federal partners, but we've got to strengthen these communities by flooding them with resources."
Brown said the department has been planning for "the last several months" for how it plans to combat a rise in violence and plans to use data from the height of violence last summer to make adjustments.
"We've identified certain neighborhoods, over, kind of a statistical three year period that drives violence in the city year over year," Brown said. "We've have special plans for those 15 areas within the city, as well as plans for all 22 districts to identify through data our deployment strategy, to include community engagements in those same areas so not just an enforcement."