‘America’s police chief’ offers insight into solving Chicago’s crime epidemic

CHICAGO -- The man known as “America’s police chief” visited Chicago Thursday to offer insight to in the city’s fight against violent crime.

William Bratton visited several police districts across the city and met with the mayor, superintendent and command staff. Bratton helped curb violent crime in New York and brought “precision policing” to Los Angeles. Now, Bratton is helping Chicago implement both strategies and offering insights on the most difficult job: addressing mistrust between police and minority communities.

“I can’t think of any other person, I’d rather be talking to about the issues in Chicago, other than this man right here,” Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said when talking about Bratton.

“Chicago is in one of the leadership positions in the country in use of technology coupled with old fashioned police work,” Bratton said.

Bratton became famous for pioneering the broken windows theory of policing – taking care of petty crimes like graffiti and broken windows helps lower violence.

“We began to understand in order to deal with serious crime, you had to deal with disorder – you couldn’t deal successfully with one without the other, but the idea that was missing back then was the neighborhood involvement,” Johnson said.

In Los Angeles, he helped usher in an era of technology – using data driven analysis to help predict when and where crimes might occur.

In Chicago, Johnson has merged both the New York and the Los Angeles models.

“I don’t want to give away trade secrets – but I will tell you this, he told me early on, ‘Don’t be afraid to get ideas from other places,’ and he’s absolutely correct, because the answer is we don’t know all the answers,” Johnson said.

Bratton noted that the strategy has helped lower violent crime in Chicago since the spike in 2016, and he said the key is to restore trust in the department, something he dealt with in both New York and Los Angeles.

“The glue that holds it all together is getting community trust. LA lost it, New York lost it and is still struggling. Boston, in the school busing crisis, lost it for 30 years. For a period of time you’ve lost it [here in Chicago]. The glue is going to be the neighborhood policing effort,” Bratton said.

Johnson is implementing another idea from New York called “immersive community policing.” It puts more emphasis on officers to make relationships within communities, rather than just making arrests. That strategy helped increase trust while decreasing crime in New York City.