Brandon Johnson, the teachers union-backed Democrat who was elected Chicago mayor, promised to unify the nation’s third-largest city after a campaign that exposed rifts over public safety, how to run the schools and who will pay more to improve social programs. The city’s problems could make the message an increasingly difficult one to deliver on, reports the Wall Street Journal. After meeting with departing mayor Lori Lightfoot, Johnson brushed off a question about whether and how quickly he plans to fill 1,600 vacancies in the police department. Johnson will contend with a full plate of potential problems after he is sworn in May 15, including a persistent crime problem that is hurting its image nationally. A priority will be naming a police superintendent after Lightfoot’s top cop, David Brown, resigned following the February mayoral primary vote. Johnson will need to take steps to stave off what could be another summer uptick in violent crime to calm a city where public safety was the No. 1 concern among voters. He faces tensions with the police union, which supported opponent Paul Vallas and repeatedly clashed with Lightfoot. “There are things that he can definitely do that will probably improve police morale and police performance,” including a reduction in overtime, said Dick Simpson, a political scientist and former alderman. Vallas made public safety the hallmark of his campaign, pledging to fill police vacancies, bring back retired officers and restore proactive policing. Johnson said he wanted to hire or promote 200 new detectives to help improve the city’s clearance rate, while attacking the root causes of crime.
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