August 23, 2016 at 5:14 PM
Homicides in Chicago, the country's third-largest city, have gone up again this year, along with nonfatal shootings, both of which already had spiked last year. It is one of more than two dozen cities where homicides were up by the midway point of the year over 2015, and this increase has been invoked numerous times by Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, during public remarks.
On Monday night, Trump appeared on Fox News for an interview on "The O'Reilly Factor," where host Bill O'Reilly asked him about how — specifically — he would deal with crime in the country. O'Reilly mentioned the situation in Chicago, as Trump has before, and asked the candidate what he would do to deal with the bloodshed there.
In response, Trump said that he had met "a top police officer in Chicago" during a visit there and that this officer assured him he could solve the violence "in one week." During his remarks, Trump — who has cast himself as the candidate of law and order and a defender of law enforcement — suggested that Chicago police could solve the problem of violence if they were tougher.
Here is a transcript of the relevant portion of the interview, courtesy of Fox News (emphasis added):
TRUMP: Well, you know why they can't solve it because they don't have the right people in charge.
O'REILLY: I know. All right. So, specifically, specifically, how do you do it? How do you do it?
TRUMP: I know police in Chicago. If they were given the authority to do it, they would get it done.
O'REILLY: How? How?
TRUMP: You have unbelievable — how? By being very much tougher than they are right now. They right now are not tough. I mean, I could tell you this very long and quite boring story. But when I was in Chicago, I got to meet a couple of very tough police. I said, how do you stop this? How do you stop this? If you were put in charge to a specific person, do you think you could stop this? He said, Mr. Trump I would be able to stop it in one week and I believed him 100 percent.
When O'Reilly pushed for more details, Trump said this unnamed officer did not elaborate on what he would do, but the candidate said the officer "wants to use tough police tactics." He continued:
TRUMP: All I know is this. I went to a top police officer in Chicago who is not the police chief, and he — I could see by the way he was dealing with his people, he was a rough, tough guy, they respected him greatly. I said, how do you think you do it? He said Mr. Trump, within one week we could stop much of this horror show that's going on.
O'REILLY: But he didn't tell you exactly precisely how.
TRUMP: No, I didn't ask him. Because I'm not the mayor of Chicago. But I'll tell you what. I sent his name in and I said you probably should hire this guy. Because you have, you know, the expression you have nothing to lose. Look at what's going on in Chicago. It's horrible. This guy felt totally competent that he could stop it at a very short period of time.
After that, Trump went on to discuss "giving [police] back their spirit," repeating comments he has made about officers being unduly criticized. He said that he would be "a cheerleader for the police" if elected.
Several key questions remain unanswered by the discussion about Chicago. It is not immediately clear who Trump met with when he visited Chicago, nor the precise circumstances surrounding any of his meetings with law enforcement while he was in the city. Trump did not specify if the officer was part of the department's senior command, calling him only a "top police officer in Chicago who is not the police chief."
It did not appear, though, that the discussion happened during an organized meeting with high-ranking Chicago police officials, similar to a gathering he had last week with law enforcement officers in Milwaukee.
A spokesman for the Chicago Police Department on Tuesday said that "no one in the senior command … has ever met with Donald Trump or a member of his campaign." Dean Angelo, president of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police, said he was unaware of any meeting involving Trump and command staff or anyone representing the police union.
"Beyond that, the best way to address crime is through a commitment to community policing and a commitment to stronger laws to keep illegal guns and repeat violent offenders off the street," Anthony Guglielmi, the police department spokesman, wrote in an email.
In a statement Tuesday, a Trump campaign spokeswoman said that he spoke with the officer during a visit to the city during the spring. The campaign did not respond to questions regarding the officer's name, what Trump meant when he called him a "top police officer" or how the meeting came about.
"He is a private individual, but one who, like Mr. Trump, cares deeply about his country and protecting all Americans," Hope Hicks, the Trump campaign spokeswoman, wrote in an email. "They had a very productive and interesting conversation as Mr. Trump does with officers and law enforcement communities around the country."
Trump has positioned himself as the candidate of law and order, describing the country as being afflicted by "crime and violence" that he will stop if elected. (His comments on the subject, like those he made during his speech accepting the nomination last month, do not fully match what is happening nationwide, as violent crime remains at historically low levels.)
In March, Trump visited Chicago for a rally his campaign hastily called off due to what it called "safety concerns," prompted by scores of protesters inside and around the venue.
Corey Lewandowski, the former Trump campaign manager who was heading the presidential bid at that time, revisited that event Monday night on CNN, saying that the scene "was so chaotic and it was so out of control that Secret Service and the Chicago Police Department told him you could not get in and out of that facility safely and that rally was canceled."
The Chicago police disputed that suggestion not long after the rally was called off, saying that they "had no role, we were not consulted or provided an opinion" in the decision to cancel the event, then-interim police superintendent John J. Escalante said that night.
"We did assure the Trump campaign that we had more than adequate resources outside the [venue] and that we guaranteed them that we could provide safe access and exit to Mr. Trump," Escalante told reporters.
It is also not clear to whom Trump is referring when he said that he sent the officer's name to an unspecified someone and suggested they hire this officer. A spokesman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) seemed slightly confused by Trump's apparent suggestion that the Chicago police hire someone who already worked for the Chicago police, and he referred other questions to the police department.