Board passes res­o­lu­tion to ‘re­di­rect funds from polic­ing, in­car­cer­a­tion to public ser­vices’

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY RACHEL HIN­TON, STAFF RE­PORTER rhin­ton@sun­ | @rrhin­ton

The Cook County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers voted Thurs­day to re­di­rect money from ar­rest­ing peo­ple and lock­ing them up to hous­ing, health care and job cre­ation, in the midst of a tough bud­get sea­son and a na­tional con­ver­sa­tion on race and polic­ing.

The res­o­lu­tion, called Jus­tice for Black Lives, says the county “should en­gage in ef­forts to re­di­rect funds from polic­ing and in­car­cer­a­tion to public ser­vices not ad­min­is­tered by law en­force­ment that pro­mote com­mu­nity health and safety eq­ui­tably across the county, but es­pe­cially in Black and Brown com­mu­ni­ties most im­pacted by vi­o­lence and in­car­cer­a­tion.”

Com­mis­sioner Bran­don John­son, D-Chicago, who spon­sored the mea­sure and in­tro­duced it at last month’s vir­tual meet­ing, said that he lives “in a com­mu­nity that re­flects many of our hopes and dreams,” talk­ing about his West Side dis­trict, which in­cludes the Austin neigh­bor­hood.

“We’re spend­ing al­most $5 mil­lion a day polic­ing alone, and that hasn’t solved any of our sys­temic prob­lems,” John­son said. “We have work to do, we are say­ing that there are very dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions that we will have to make in the com­ing months.”

The res­o­lu­tion notes that de­spite a 50% de­crease in the num­ber of peo­ple in­car­cer­ated in the Cook County jail be­tween 2013 and 2020, the bud­get for the county’s Cor­rec­tions Depart­ment grew by 26% dur­ing that time. “Al­most all” of the peo­ple de­tained at the jail are there await­ing trial be­cause they can­not af­ford to pay a money bond, the text of the res­o­lu­tion says.

Com­mis­sioner Frank Aguilar voted present on the item, say­ing he feels “de­fund­ing of the po­lice depart­ment” could be “very dan­ger­ous for our com­mu­ni­ties.”

Sean Mor­ri­son, R-Pa­los Park, was the sole no vote, say­ing be­fore the roll call that he’d be vot­ing against the mea­sure be­cause he felt it fo­cused just on de­fund­ing the po­lice and not “in­di­vid­ual” prob­lems, such as hous­ing and health care in­equities, that the res­o­lu­tion seeks to ad­dress.

“This res­o­lu­tion of­fends our very of­fi­cers in Chicago, in Cook County, in our sub­urbs and in our state, it’s of­fen­sive to them, it’s of­fen­sive for their fam­i­lies,” Mor­ri­son said. “So if we’re go­ing to be se­ri­ous, let’s put to­gether se­ri­ous res­o­lu­tions that ad­dress and at­tack in­di­vid­ual items that do need to be fixed.”

It’s not yet clear what the res­o­lu­tion could mean for Sher­iff Tom Dart’s of­fice, though he as well as oth­ers in the county are be­ing asked to cut their bud­gets be­cause of the pan­demic’s ef­fect on the county’s usual rev­enue sources.

Last month, Cook County Board Pres­i­dent Toni Preck­win­kle told the Chicago Sun­Times “we have to dra­mat­i­cally re­duce the amount we spend on law en­force­ment.” She tem­pered that by adding: “I think it doesn’t make sense to think that you can have no po­lice. … The po­lice can’t be an agent for op­pres­sion and enforcers of racial in­equal­ity. The po­lice have to be public ser­vants.”

At a news con­fer­ence fol­low­ing the board meet­ing Thurs­day, Preck­win­kle said the res­o­lu­tion is set against a “back­drop of na­tional and lo­cal protests.”

“While th­ese con­ver­sa­tions are long over­due, they could not have hap­pened dur­ing a more press­ing mo­ment for our na­tion,” Preck­win­kle said.

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