On behalf of 53 organizations and over 200 community leaders from Chicago’s movement for true community safety including longtime organizers, members of Brandon Johnson’s Transition Subcommittees, newly elected Police District Council members, social workers, artists, and more, we share this open letter to Mayor Brandon Johnson’s administration, to the Mayor’s new Office of Community Safety, to our City Council representatives, and to the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability with our response to final 2024 CPD budget. Many of us resonated with the message of “investing in people” as the best path toward safety and shared general alignment around a holistic approach to public safety that goes beyond policing that shaped much of Mayor Johnson’s movement-driven campaign as well as the campaigns of a number of progressive city council members. We write from the place of wanting to see that shared vision reflected more and more in future budgets.

We appreciate seeing an intention to affirm community safety beyond policing and use of force in this budget and are proud to see investment in Treatment Not Trauma and the Peacebook, both long-standing demands of our movement. However, we oppose the increase to the Chicago Police Department budget, now set to be $1.99 billion in 2024 and to make up 35% of the city’s corporate fund.

We know that people are safest when we have access to well-resourced, public institutions of care that meet the needs of everyday Chicagoans. Any increase to CPD’s overwhelmingly large budget continues to send a message that the police department is more important than the many other life-affirming solutions – more affordable housing, quality public schools, healthcare, jobs programs, community based violence prevention initiatives, accessible community spaces – that support the overall safety and wellness of Chicago communities.

In direct response to the 400 new civilian positions within CPD, we agree that there should be fewer armed police doing many of the things police get called to do and more good union jobs in the public sector. We do, however, have concerns about what is being described as “civilianization”:

  1. If we are to invest in unarmed, non-police jobs that promote community safety, we should be investing in those jobs outside of the police department, which already makes up over a third of the city’s workforce. Investment in a new approach to safety would more appropriately be housed in another city department with a different orientation to policing.
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  3. We suggest a different framework for “civilianization.” Adding more positions to an Office of Community Policing is still an investment in more jobs that support the work of police or that orient community members to police and surveil each other. Alternatively, we support a version of civilianization that redistributes responsibilities away from and reduces community contact with police, while increasing contact with other institutions and systems of care. Treatment Not Trauma, for example, offers us that mental health workers and peer support teams can be responsible for mental health crises. We should extend this approach to other areas.

Continuing to fund vacancies that CPD cannot fill is an unstrategic use of appropriated funds. We support cutting vacant officer positions out of the budget and oppose increased funding for recruitment purposes. We denounce the idea of recruiting police officers from military bases. And we call upon the administration to use these recruitment resources and vacancies salaries to invest in other departments to build toward safety in a more holistic way such as recruiting for mental health professionals in CDPH, peacekeepers with DFSS, park district, schools and other public services that build true safety in our city.

CPD is set to receive the same $100 million line item for police overtime that it has in the past few budget cycles, despite the department consistently exceeding this amount. We oppose the unchecked practice of “trolling,” which is common practice of officers making discretionary arrests at the end of a shift in order to receive overtime pay and cash in on a perverse economic incentive. This widespread practice was scrutinized in a 2017 report from the Office of Inspector General and the OIG’s 2020 follow-up report documents that the CPD made no effort to remedy trolling related practices. We call for the implementation of strategies to end this practice and end excessive police overtime spending.

We call on city leaders to advocate for the immediate suspension of all CPD officers affiliated with the oathkeepers, proud boys, or other white supremacist groups as well as all other officers who demonstrate that they are a danger to our communities. This includes the hundreds of officers who were caught on tape unlawfully brutalizing community members in the summer of 2020 and have not been held accountable and the almost 200 officers on the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Do Not Call List.

We understand that a line item for ShotSpotter was baked into the budget because of the city’s pre-existing contract with the harmful gunshot detection technology. We hope to see Mayor Johnson fulfill his promise to end the city’s use of ShotSpotter by not renewing the contract that expires in February. We oppose any attempt to replace ShotSpotter with or otherwise expand the use of any other surveillance technology and we support the call for CCPSA to do their own investigation into CPD’s use of ShotSpotter against Black and Brown Chicagoans.

We also know there are millions more public dollars in other parts of the budget that go toward policing on top of CPD’s $1.99 billion, including the money spent shutting down police brutality lawsuits brought by people harmed by CPD and their loved ones as well as the cost of CPD’s fleet of cars. We also urge a careful look at ways to reduce police spending across the board.

We urge the Mayor, City Council, and the newly formed CCPSA to take seriously these recommendations to inform future budgetary decisions. Our movement sees the possibility for big visionary change in terms of how we address public safety and how we distribute resources in Chicago and we call on our city leaders to join us in taking steps toward that vision.

People’s Unity Platform

The #LetUsBreathe Collective

GoodKidsMadCity

Chicago Torture Justice Center

Black Youth Project 100

Chicago Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression

Equity and Transformation

Brighton Park Neighborhood Council

The People’s Lobby

Chicago Community Bond Fund

Dissenters

Grassroots Collaborative

Liberation Library

Blackroots Alliance

Organized Communities Against Deportations

Collaborative for Community Wellness

Jewish Council on Urban Affairs

25th Ward IPO

Circles & Ciphers

Northside Action for Justice

Palenque LSNA

Universal Life Church

Create with Yari

Thankful For Chicago

Home Remedy Chicago

Axis Lab

Chi-Nations Youth Council

Mamas Activating Movements for Abolition & Solidarity (MAMAS)

Stop Shotspotter Campaign

ChiResists – Chicago Solidarity Network

In Demand Entertainment

Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago

Asian American Midwest Progressives

Black Leadership Advocacy Coalition for Healthcare Equity

AirGo

Freedom Fighter Herbs

Chicago Housing Initiative

United Neighbors of the 35th Ward

American Friends Service Committee – Chicago

44 Ward Neighbors for Community and Justice

Nikkei Uprising

Alliance of Filipinos for Immigrant Rights and Empowerment (AFIRE Chicago)

Alternatives

Mientras Haya Amor Hay Esperanza

Southeast Environmental Task Force

National Lawyers Guild Chicago

Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation (SOUL)

Chicago Votes

Liberate 46th Ward

Cannabis Equity IL Coalition

Access Living

Alliance for Community Services

33rd Ward Working Families