Mar 17, 2023 - Politics

"Defund the police" dogs Chicago mayoral candidate Brandon Johnson

Photo of a man listening to reporters.

Chicago mayoral candidate Brandon Johnson. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson says his views on funding police have not changed, but his words have.

Why it matters: With almost two-thirds of Chicago voters saying public safety is the No. 1 issue this election, per WBEZ, both mayoral candidates are being pressed on past stances to reduce crime in the city.

Driving the news: Johnson — who pushed to divert funds from police to social services in 2020 — told Axios at our mayoral forum last month that he "hasn't changed" his position on police funding.

  • He also told Block Club this week that his vision for public safety doesn't include defunding the police.
  • "But what I am committed to doing is to make sure that we are actually investing in a smart way," he said, adding that "we are asking too much of law enforcement."

Flashback: In July 2020, Johnson introduced a nonbinding resolution on the Cook County Board promising to steer funds from police to social services.

What he said: "People are not feeling any safer, communities have not transformed by putting more money into the police," Johnson told Justin on WBEZ's "Reset" in 2020.

  • "I'm absolutely confident that we will be the generation that responds and reacts to the global movement that is calling for redirecting money away from policing and militarizing police forces and directing dollars into job opportunities, transportation, health care and housing for people."

The big picture: Johnson's resolution was proposed during the height of a movement to defund the police after the murder of George Floyd, when many politicians, including presidential candidates, were calling for similar ideas.

  • Of note: Several Illinois Democrats, including Gov. JB Pritzker, Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Sen. Dick Durbin, would not commit to the movement.

What he's saying: "I said it was a political goal," Johnson said about defunding the police at a public safety forum on Tuesday. "I never said it was mine."

Zoom in: Although Johnson has said he won't increase the police budget, he has promised to promote 200 rank-and-file officers to detectives to help with the department's recent dismal arrest record.

The other side: Paul Vallas, who's promised to hire more police officers, has seized on Johnson's distancing himself from his past remarks.

  • His campaign dropped a new attack ad and put out a statement saying: "Brandon Johnson can't rewrite history. He supported defunding the police then; he supports defunding the police now."

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