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State Reps Call For National Guard To Curb Chicago Violence (UPDATED)

By aaroncynic in News on Apr 26, 2010 7:30PM

In order to curb Chicago’s rampant and increasing outbreak of violence, State Representatives John Fritchey (D-11th District) and LaShawn Ford (D-8th District) want to call in the National Guard. Yesterday, the legislators urged city and state officials to use the Guard to bolster a thinly stretched Chicago Police. “As we speak, National Guard members are working side-by-side with our troops to fight a war halfway around the world,” said Representative Fritchey via press release, “…we have another war that is just as deadly taking place right in our backyard.”

While rampant violence is always cause for alarm, not everyone in Chicago is exactly on board with the idea. Police Superintendent Jody Weis said “As much as I'd like to have as much help as possible, I'm not sure that mixing the National Guard with local law enforcement is the solution.” Professor Dennis Rosenbaum, a criminologist at the University of Illinois Chicago backed Weis’s position, pointing out in an interview with ABC that military training does not extend to concepts like search and seizure or evidence protection. Mayor Daley responded by saying “I don’t think it’s a long term solution, but I understand what the community is thinking.”

Of course, this isn't the first time the suggestion has been made.

Reactionary methods to combat crime in this manner have popped up before. In 2008, then Governor Blagojevich floated the idea, but ultimately backed away. Former Governor Jim Thompson faced the same issue two decades ago and also declined. While deploying troops in our streets might seem like a good idea in the face of the abhorrent violence the city has seen, a military presence does not address the root causes of crime and violence.

In fact, thus far, 2010's numbers seem on par with, if not a bit below, previous years' totals. Chicago had 134 murders from January to April in 2008, 109 for the same period in 2009 and 106 so far this year. There's been more media scrutiny due to more high profile acts of violence, like the visceral video of Darrion Albert's beating death last fall and last week's shooting death of a toddler caught in gang-related cross-fire. That's not to say something doesn't need to be done; it does. Whether it's more funding for police, better training, perhaps another shuffle at the top of the CPD, there are steps that can be taken. But calling in the National Guard doesn't seem to be the correct course, a quick fix instead of digging deeper into a local solution of how to fix the city's cycle of violence.

In addition, the consequences for civil liberties could be disastrous. While Fritchey and Ford have attempted to disconnect a National Guard presence from martial law, it’s hard to look at a uniformed military presence any other way. When there's already a distrust in the community of the police, how will they feel about armed, uniformed guards in their neighborhoods? They may not be “talking about rolling tanks down the street,” but dealing with drugs and gangs isn’t the same as dealing with insurgents or disaster relief efforts.

UPDATE: Gov. Quinn says no dice.