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Trump At Odds With Local Chicago Leaders On Response To Gun Violence


President Trump and rapper Kanye West met for lunch today. One topic on the agenda - gun violence in Chicago. West told Trump he opposes stop and frisk police tactics. The president's ideas have differed greatly from what reformers and local leaders are trying to do, a difference that was on full display this week, as NPR's Martin Kaste report.

MARTIN KASTE, BYLINE: Chicago's had a rough few years. In 2016, murders jumped to the highest rate in two decades, something Trump talked about a lot during his campaign. Since then, the murder rate there has fallen some, but gun crime remains a stubborn problem. And this week, the president said he wants to help.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I have directed the attorney general's office to immediately go to the great city of Chicago to help straighten out the terrible shooting wave. I'm going to straighten it out. I want to straighten it out fast. There's no reason for what's going on there.


KASTE: But what that means, it turns out, is opposition. The administration is filing a brief with a federal court saying it opposes a package of police reforms in Chicago that's known as a consent decree. The decree aims to improve police training and rebuild trust between cops and the public. Trump does not like consent decrees. He says the real cure for Chicago is more intensive policing.


TRUMP: Stop and frisk - it works. And it was meant for problems like Chicago. It was meant for it - stop and frisk.

KASTE: Trump says the widespread stopping and frisking of potential criminals reduces crime. That conclusion is contentious, though, and stop and frisk can also turn into racial profiling. Under a 2015 court settlement, Chicago police have had to fill out extensive forms justifying their stops, which has led to fewer stops. The administration believes this sort of court-ordered limitation on policing can make crime worse and that this new consent decree is more of the same. But Lisa Madigan says it's a little late for them to be weighing in.

LISA MADIGAN: We really haven't had any peep from them until now.

KASTE: Madigan is the Illinois attorney general. Last year, in an unusual move, she sued the city for a consent decree, doing the job that the Trump administration would not.

MADIGAN: If they wanted to have a role, they had that opportunity. They decided that they did not and therefore chose to do nothing.

KASTE: She regards the consent decree as a necessary reform. But that word is not reassuring to former cop Peter Moskos.

PETER MOSKOS: You know, reform as a word is just as mindless as stop and frisk.

KASTE: He's a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York and host of a podcast called Quality Policing. It galls him to agree with the Trump administration on something, but he says the evidence from places such as Baltimore is that federal consent decrees can sometimes make crime worse by limiting the intensity of policing in the places where young men carry guns and shoot each other.

MOSKOS: If we're going to reduce murders, we have to go to places where murders happen. There's going to be racial disparity, but that is separate from racial bias. And racial bias has to be attacked, but certain neighborhoods need more policing.

KASTE: Many policing experts these days lament what they see as a false choice between the strictures of Obama-era consent decrees and Trump's unquestioning support for intensive policing. In Chicago, city leaders are digging in against Trump's rhetoric. Asked about it yesterday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel lashed out at reporters for taking the administration's opposition seriously.


RAHM EMANUEL: You guys even in the stories acknowledge it has only symbolic value. You guys got to stop acting like Pavlovian little mice chasing every time Donald Trump says something. It doesn't have any value.

KASTE: Trump's opposition to Chicago's consent decree probably is symbolic. The administration's brief is not likely to stop its approval in court. But on Monday when Trump called for stop and frisk, the applause from the police audience was very real, highlighting the ongoing tension between them and the reformers. Martin Kaste, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Martin Kaste is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk. He covers law enforcement and privacy. He has been focused on police and use of force since before the 2014 protests in Ferguson, and that coverage led to the creation of NPR's Criminal Justice Collaborative.