Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposal for an expensive new police academy picked up a new, high-profile critic Wednesday: Chance the Rapper, an acclaimed hip-hop artist and Chicago native who’s become a fixture in city politics.
In the wake of a scathing federal investigation into Chicago’s police department, Emanuel proposed a $95 million police and firefighter training center in July to get the department back on its feet after the Justice Department found it had “severely deficient training” and used excessive force on people of color.
“Financially, this proposed plan doesn’t make sense. We don’t have $95 million,” Chance said.
Instead, he asked the council to use the money to fund mental health programs and Chicago’s beleaguered public education system, arguing “There’s a lot of ways to transform the city that don’t have anything to do with police training.”
The artist has raised and donated millions of dollars to Chicago public schools, which have struggled in recent years under widespread school closures and looming interest payments of over $1 billion in the coming decades.
His comments didn’t reach Emanuel directly, though — the mayor left the meeting before Chance spoke.
“I guess the mayor had to step out when I came up. But it’s cool. It’s cool. It’s cool because I’m here to talk to you,” Chance said.
The Grammy-winning recording artist isn’t alone in criticizing the proposed plan. Emanuel and the plan’s supporters bill it as a way to reform the police and bring economic opportunity to Chicago’s West Side, its proposed location. But opponents take issue with spending so much even though Dean Angelo, the head of Chicago’s police union, has vigorously disputed the DOJ’s findings in their investigation — among them that CPD targeted people of color.
“It’s hard for me to stomach spending $95 million when our negotiating partner doesn’t believe a problem exists,” said Ameya Pawar, an alderman, at a council meeting earlier this week.