Chicago’s top police officer responded Friday afternoon with a sharp message: We’ve already asked for your help, and we haven’t heard back.
“We’ve made requests to the White House and the Justice Department for them to support our work — from increasing federal gun prosecution to more FBI, DEA and ATF agents to more funding for mentoring, job training and more,” Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said in a statement. “The mayor made the request in person as recently as last week and we are hopeful the administration will finally respond.”
Johnson’s comment was not the first time he has responded to the president, who has frequently invoked the bloodshed in Chicago as a shorthand for rising violence in some American cities nationwide. On Twitter and in speeches and interviews, Trump has time and again brought up Chicago, which has struggled in recent years to combat a wave of bloodshed.
Through Wednesday, the city has had 99 homicides, slightly up from the same point last year, according to the Chicago Tribune. That newspaper tracks homicides and includes killings not counted in the police department’s tally (which does not include fatal shootings by police and justified homicides, and which shows that killings were slightly down in the same window).
On Thursday night, Trump’s tweet again posited that Chicago needed help, without elaborating on what the federal government could do:
His comments Friday at the conservative conference followed suit. “Seven people, seven people, Chicago, a great American city, seven people shot and killed,” Trump said. “We will support the incredible men and women of law enforcement.” He promptly moved on to something else and never returned to the topic.
These remarks were the latest in a long line of Trump’s commentary about the issue. During the presidential campaign and in office, Trump has decried Chicago’s violence and weighed in on what could be done. In January, during his first White House interview, Trump called the situation “very easily fixable” and then blamed it on city officials “being overly politically correct.”
In the summer, while running for office, Trump said in an interview with Fox News that police in Chicago were fully capable of resolving the situation. When asked how, Trump, who has painted himself as a staunch advocate of law enforcement, said: “By being very much tougher than they are right now. They right now are not tough.”
Trump also said that a “top police officer” told him that there was a way to stop the violence “within one week.” (Trump’s campaign declined to identify this person, and Chicago police and union officials said Trump never met with any member of the department’s senior command staff.) Johnson responded during a news conference a week later, saying: “If you have a magic bullet to stop the violence anywhere, not just in Chicago but in America, then please, share it with us. We’d be glad to take that information and stop this violence.”
His tweet echoed another he sent during the transition, when he said that if Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) “can’t do it he must ask for Federal help!”
However, it was not immediately clear what Trump meant by sending in “the feds.” There are already federal resources on the ground in Chicago, including multiple agencies involved in task forces with agents working alongside Chicago police officers. If Trump was referring to the National Guard, the Illinois governor has said he opposes such an idea, and federal law effectively states that activating the guard without a governor’s consent requires the president to be putting down a rebellion. (Johnson, at the time of Trump’s last threat to “send in the feds,” expressed bafflement, telling the Chicago Tribune: “The statement is so broad. I have no idea what he’s talking about.”)
In his message Friday, Johnson reiterated this plea for help and again assailed the bloodshed in his city.
“We have challenges with gun violence in several neighborhoods on the south and west sides of the city,” Johnson said. “It’s unacceptable to me, to the mayor and to everyone who lives in Chicago.”