Rahm Emanuel and Jesus Chuy Garcia at Thursdays mayoral runoff debate.
  • AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
  • Rahm Emanuel and Jesus “Chuy” Garcia at Thursday’s mayoral runoff debate.

A mayor needs to be “clear, concise, and consistent,” Rahm Emanuel asserted early in last night’s debate. He says he’s strikingly different in that way from his opponent, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, whom Emanuel has painted as vague and evasive.

With that in mind, I listened intently to the mayor’s response when moderator Mike Flannery asked him about the declining number of Chicago police detectives.

Flannery referred to a WBEZ report this week by Chip Mitchell that showed that the number of detectives is down 19 percent since Emanuel became mayor; that the number of evidence technicians and forensic investigators has dropped even more during that period; and that detectives cleared only 29 percent of last year’s homicides, near the lowest level in decades.

Mitchell noted in his story that WBEZ asked the city for an interview “with any official familiar with homicide clearances and detective staffing levels”—but that instead of an actual interview, WBEZ got a written statement that talked about new crime-scene training and a new ballistics lab.

In the debate last night, Flannery asked Emanuel: “Mr. Mayor, why that 19 percent decline in detectives investigating murders?”

Emanuel responded that he sometimes visits the families of homicide victims so they know “they’re not gonna be alone.” He noted that the homicide rate and overall crime rate are down.

“Why are so few being solved, Mr. Mayor?” Flannery persisted.

“A good portion of them are gang-on-gang homicides,” Emanuel responded. (Flannery had observed earlier that those can be harder to solve, because witnesses often won’t talk. But the proportion of gang-related killings was also high when the clearance rates were better.) The mayor then added, “And what you need is to make sure you put more police on the street, and get kids, guns, and drugs off the street—”

“But why a 19 percent decline in detectives?” Flannery tried again.

“—which is why I’ve been clear—” Emanuel continued.

“Why less detectives?” Garcia broke in. “He asked.”

“Chuy, Chuy—I’m trying to be respectful of the process,” the mayor said. “I didn’t interrupt you, let me just finish here. The issue here is making sure that we have our officers on the street. . . . And we need to change our gun laws.”

With that, Flannery gave up, and put a question to Garcia.

I asked Mitchell today what he thought of the mayor’s response last night. Mitchell said that for more than two weeks, WBEZ has been asking Emanuel and police superintendent Garry McCarthy to explain why they’ve allowed the detective ranks to shrink by nearly 200 during Emanuel’s time as mayor. “We haven’t received an answer,” Mitchell said. “In last night’s debate, the mayor was asked a couple more times. He didn’t answer.”

Now that’s clear and concise.