Rahm Emanuel and Chicago show the ineffectiveness of shame

Rahm Emanuel

One of the toughest government jobs in the country is being mayor of Chicago. The city is broke, broken, and has limited prospects for recovery. That was how the city stood when Rahm Emanuel took over the top spot in 2011 and things are far worse today than they’ve ever been despite what some statistics might say.

It’s very reminiscent of New York City before Mayor Rudy Giuliani, New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, and the Broken Windows theory of crime fighting. Pundits, sociologists, and politicians will either credit the trio with the dramatic turnaround that has happened in New York City over the last two decades or they’ll condemn them for being the beneficiaries of some other factors that happened. They’re both right, but we’ll discuss that shortly.

This is pertinent today because Chicago is in a downward spiral and Emanuel did what he felt he had to do to stop the bleeding. He asked for the resignation of of Chicago Police Commissioner Garry McCarthy.

Caught between a rock and a hard place, Emanuel needed to take drastic action after the release of a video showing the brutal murder of Laquan McDonald last October. The video showed CPD officer Jason Van Dyke shooting McDonald 16 times on the street, prompting protests that have been raging since last week. So many questions still remain about how and why this happened.

In light of these and other events that have happened across the country, one thing is clear: in high crime metro areas, there is no single methodology or catchphrase crime fighting technique that can bring the proper balance necessary. This balance is the key to what happened in New York City and it’s the type of balance that very few people are discussing.

Everyone talks about the drastic measures that must be taken, but they’re usually polarizing. On one side, you have the people calling for tougher laws and increased enforcement. The Broken Windows concept is part of the reason that McCarthy was brought in by Emanuel in the first place. The former commissioner has been trying to implement it for some time.

On the other side, you have the calls for compassion and communication between the police and the citizens in the area that want to be safer. Even though they want their streets to be safer, they don’t always trust that the police are going to be there for them. It’s hard to get help from and in turn help the police when the feeling is one of betrayal and distrust.

The people don’t believe in the Chicago police any more than the Chicago police believe in the people. There is a divide that didn’t exist in New York City until recently. That divide is what seems to be having a negative effect on the Big Apple and it’s the same divide that has prevented any actions by the Chicago police from having success.

The alternative crime fighting theory to Broken Windows is Collective Efficacy. They say that this more than anything else the police did reduced crime in NYC and it will be required to fight crime in Chicago.

What if they’re both wrong? What if they’re both right?

Efficacy and toughness are not mutually exclusive

What most don’t seem to understand (mostly because criminologists have divided the theories) is that Broken Windows and Collective Efficacy do not have to be in conflict. Crime fighting does not exist in a vacuum. The factors that affect crime rates such as economic hardship, access to assistance, presence of law enforcement, and other tangibles are only part of the equation. Add in racial conflict and the balance between too much and too little from the police and the calculus changes completely.

Some say Broken Windows fixed New York City because it made people less likely to commit bigger crimes where smaller laws were being enforced. Others say that Collective Efficacy fixed New York City because it brought the people together for the common goal of working with the police and making their streets safe.

The clear reality is that both have been in play in New York City and neither are appropriately in play in Chicago. These are not competing theories. They are both requirements within the balance for a city to be safe. The people need to know that the laws are going to be enforced and they need to know that the police are on their side as partners working towards safety and security.

Why Chicago is crumbling

Despite efforts from the police, politicians, and community leaders, the city is falling apart. The police are having a hard time doing their job. The people are having a hard time trusting the police.

What makes Emanuel and Giuliani so different? Why did Bratton become legendary for crime fighting while McCarthy is now the goat after attempting to employ the same techniques?

The answer can be found at the top with the attitude. Giuliani’s conservative tenets of making citizens take partial responsibility for fighting crime goes starkly against the enabling and entitlement that Emanuel espouses. Giuliani made the police act with pride and gave the citizens incentive to be proud of their city while Emanuel makes everyone, literally, feel bad about themselves.

Giuliani fought crime with pride. Emanuel fights crime through shame.

He shames the police. He shames his citizens. He points fingers at everyone other than himself and his own failed policies.

Giuliani might have labeled his efforts around the Broken Windows theory but he brought Collective Efficacy to the table through his actions and the way that he treated the people of New York City. Emanuel is attempting to shift from hardcore efficacy to hardcore toughness and back again rather than realizing that they both exist outside of labels in an environment that promotes pride.

For Chicago to get fixed, the police need to step up their outreach and their toughness. Simultaneously, the citizens of Chicago through their community leaders must embrace a sense of responsibility to work with police and to help keep their own streets safe. This isn’t going to be easy by any means. It isn’t something that can be solved by firing one guy, implementing a task force, and making speeches. It will take time, probably longer than his current term, to make it happen.

Rahm Emanuel is more to blame for Chicago’s crime problems than anyone on the police force. If he doesn’t unite the city through pride instead of pushing for changes through shame, the city will not be able to heal.

JD Rucker

JD Rucker is Editor of this site as well as Soshable, a Conservative Christian Blog. He is a Christian, a husband, a father, and founder of both Judeo Christian Church and Dealer Authority. He drinks a lot of coffee, usually in the form of a 5-shot espresso over ice. Find him on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.