Chicago mayoral election: Paul Vallas, Brandon Johnson offer diametrically opposed approaches to public safety at UIC forum

CHICAGO (WLS) — At a forum hosted by the University of Illinois at Chicago, mayoral candidates Brandon Johnson and Paul Vallas offered an approach that was sharply at odds with public safety.

Both candidates agreed that officers were overburdened and responded too frequently to calls made to mental health professionals.

But on other public safety issues, they offer very different ideas.

The large crowd at the forum included crime victims and violence prevention advocates.

READ MORE: Polls show a tight race between Vallas, Johnson

“We lost a thousand police officers in the last two years,” said Vallas. “In an average year, we will lose 335 policemen. The right leaders, the right strategy, the right approach will slow the exodus.

Vallas said he would put more police on CTA platforms and trains, create a witness protection program, and assign more officers to beat up, a community policing strategy that Johnson has questioned.

“Why do we portray policing as a community effort only in black and brown communities?” he wondered. “What if you just loved people enough and were prepared and willing to do your job, and you didn't have to have some kind of extra dynamic attached to, to the police dynamic?”

Johnson said he would soon promote 200 officers to detectives, but said the overall answer was not more police but more investment in poor areas.

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He again refuses to be characterized as wanting to “defund the police.”

“There are people who want to see the police budget stripped,” he said. “I said it was a political goal. I never said it was mine.”

Tuesday Johnson was supported at Rainbow PUSH and by abortion rights group Personal PAC, while Vallas had the backing of two Latino elected leaders who criticized Johnson's tax plan.

The candidates will be debating in our ABC7 studio on Thursday.

You can watch “People's Forum” at 7pm on our digital channel 7.2, and on our streaming platforms.

You can also watch it Friday night after ABC7 Eyewitness News at 10 p.m. Will be rebroadcast on Sunday at 4 pm.