Gun violence and homicide rates are up in major cities, where police and local officials are sparring over the uncertain future of policing in America.
New York has recorded at least 175 homicides this year as of mid-June, more than 100 people were shot during the Fourth of July weekend alone in Chicago, and the District of Columbia tallied its 100th homicide last week for the year — the earliest date since 2003.
“The crime crisis is claiming the lives of fathers, mothers, sons and daughters,” the National Fraternal Order of Police tweeted last week. “People are being gunned down. It’s happening every single day.”
The D.C. Police Union says the city council is to blame because members have been “demonizing” police for months.
“This increase in crime can only be attributed to the D.C. Council’s implementation of several police reform bills and their chilling effect on professional and responsible policing,” union Chairman Gregg Pemberton said in a statement Monday.
Since the bills were enacted in June 2020, at least 386 D.C. police officers have retired or resigned. What is most alarming, Mr. Pemberton said, is that nearly half of them — 46% — resigned.
“These bills have had the unintended consequences of causing officers to leave [the force] at an alarming rate, increasing crime in our most vulnerable communities, and negatively impacting police service,” Mr. Pemberton said.
The 3,500-member Metropolitan Police force is at its lowest staffing level in decades. Most of those who left reportedly cited lawmakers’ treatment of law enforcement that “not only makes their jobs harder, but now endangers them and their families,” he added.
D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson questioned the union chairman’s comments Monday during a press conference.
“I get that they don’t like the change in the national attitude about policing, but to blame the increase in gun violence on council legislation, there’s nothing to back that up,” said Mr. Mendelson, at-large Democrat. “That’s a cause and effect without any basis.”
A similar clash between police and local leaders is unfolding in New York City. Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared gun violence an emergency last week.
Officials say at least 26 people were shot over the holiday weekend, and the number of shooting victims in the city has increased 36% over the same time last year.
Joe Gamaldi, vice president of the National Fraternal Order of Police, applauded Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat. He said the governor was “one of the few finally acknowledging the violent crime crisis” but added that an emergency declaration was not enough.
“But nowhere in the governor’s plan did he actually address what’s driving our violent crime, and that’s rogue prosecutors and activist judges who are letting out violent criminals over and over again,” Mr. Gamaldi told Fox News on Wednesday.
Paul DiGiacomo, president of the New York City Detectives’ Endowment Association, said the city’s bail reform law changes are proving to be detrimental.
The changes, which took effect in January 2020, are aimed at helping those who can’t afford to pay pretrial bail.
“No one is being held in jail, and there’s a tremendous amount of guns on the street,” Mr. DiGiacomo said.
Nonetheless, he said, city leaders refuse to revert to the original statutes.
“They’ve enacted laws, and now they’re not man enough to change them back [to] the way they should be,” Mr. DiGiacomo said. “They made a mistake.”
In Chicago, Alderman Ray Lopez is demanding that Mayor Lori Lightfoot oust Police Superintendent David Brown after at least 108 people were shot, 17 fatally, during the city’s most violent Fourth of July weekend in at least four years.
“Brown refuses to do anything more than what she says,” Mr. Lopez said during a news conference last week. “And for that reason, we cannot continue down this path. He must be fired.”
Ms. Lightfoot, a Democrat who appointed Mr. Brown as the city’s top cop last year, responded by saying, “I don’t think anything that comes out of Alderman Lopez’s mouth is really worth my time or consideration.”
Mr. Brown said police “are doing their job by arresting people and charging them with murder,” but prosecutors and judges are to blame.
“There are too many violent offenders and too little consequences in our courts,” Mr. Brown said. “The courts have created an unsafe environment for large crowd gatherings because you released people charged with murder back into the communities where they committed these heinous crimes.”
More than 90 people incarcerated on murder charges this year have been released with electronic monitors, he said. The superintendent has pointed to instances in which offenders carried out other shootings while on release.
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx took to Twitter in an attempt to end the blame game.
“Finger-pointing instead of talking honestly about the violence plaguing our city doesn’t help bring solutions that make our communities safer,” Ms. Foxx tweeted.
The rising crime rates have also caught the attention of President Biden, who discussed the issue Monday with Mr. Brown, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and other city and law enforcement leaders.
The Biden administration also issued a memo urging state and local leaders to use coronavirus relief funds to combat crime by hiring more officers, allocating funds toward anti-violence initiatives and zeroing in on illegal gun dealers.