Chicago's political leaders have come out with strongly divided opinions on a secret meeting between police and gang leadership that took place August 17.
The meeting was held in Garfield Park; Police Superintendent Jody Weis summoned leaders of several West Side gangs, as well as the families of victims of violence, to demand that the gangs put an end to the city's rash of killings.
Weis and police officials explained that the force would use all methods at its disposal, including the RICO law that allows for prosecution of members of criminal enterprises, to crack down on gangs responsible for murders. And many invited told stories of family members slain by gang violence. Weis said the personal stories "touched" the assembled gang chiefs.
But in the days since the Chicago Sun-Times made the meeting public knowledge on Saturday, some members of Chicago's City Council have been harshly critical of Weis' approach.
"I can't believe we're sitting down and negotiating with urban terrorists who are killing our kids with guns and drugs on the streets," said Alderman Bob Fioretti, according to another Sun-Times story. "These are not people the superintendent ought to be negotiating with. They've now been elevated to equals. They're not equals. They belong in jail. It's an admission that the Police Department can't control the streets."
Alderman Joe Moore, a perennial opponent of the Daley administration, also criticized the summit, calling it a "desperation tactic."
But Mayor Daley has stood behind Weis. From WBEZ:
Daley says officials in other cities including Boston, Cincinnati and Los Angeles have tried similar tactics.
DALEY: It's a good concept. You know, sit down with anyone. We'll negotiate after the second world war. We'll negotiate with anyone to have peace. Even during the war. So sit down with anyone. If you save one life, if I can save your son's life, you want me to sit down with them.
When asked if Weis had consulted with the mayor or sought his permission before the summit, Daley responded curtly, "He doesn't have to. This is not grammar school."
Some aldermen who preside over particularly violent wards have also come out in support of the summit. From the Sun-Times:
"Once you talk to people, a possibility of something getting resolved exists. I think he's made the right step by talking to people," said West Side Ald. Ed Smith (28th).
Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) said he has already seen results from the "unorthodox" meeting.
"I've gotten calls from people related to the gangs [who] want to have meetings in certain communities to try to have truces. The gang leaders don't want to deal with this kind of pressure, so they're gonna try to get the kids to stop fighting," Burnett said.
Still, the city waits to see results from the various anti-gang efforts undertaken by the CPD. This weekend alone, as the gang summit story became public, 5 people were fatally shot at more than 25 wounded in gunfire throughout the city--and West Side gangs were to blame for several.