CHICAGO, IL (CN) – President Donald Trump blasted Chicago leaders as being weak on crime and compared violence in the nation’s third largest city to war conditions in Afghanistan during remarks at a law enforcement conference Monday.
“All over the world, people are talking about Chicago,” Trump told over 1,500 attendees of the International Association of Chiefs of Police gathering. “Afghanistan is safer than Chicago.”
In his first speech in Chicago as president, Trump claimed his policies have reduced national crime rates and that his work to end “anti-police bias” has led to safer conditions for police.
“Every day, I will be your greatest and loyal champion,” Trump said. “I’ve done more than any president has done for police.”
Chicago’s Democratic leaders have been criticized heavily by Trump, who at one point said he would use National Guard troops to quell gun violence since officials have failed to deter crime despite having some of the toughest gun laws in the nation.
Trump heaped criticism on Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson – who skipped Trump’s speech – saying the police official is “not doing his job.”
“I want Johnson to change his values and change them fast,” Trump told the crowd.
The union representing the city’s rank-and-file members of the Chicago Police Department said in a statement Wednesday that its board of directors “issued a vote of no confidence against” Johnson.
“There is one person who is not here today,” Trump said of Johnson. “This person should be here. Maybe he could learn something.”
Johnson said in a statement last week that he would not attend out of a disagreement with Trump’s policies and rhetoric.
“As police officers, our job is to be the voice for the voiceless and ambassadors to the communities that we serve,” Johnson said. “I can’t in good conscience stand by while racial insults and hatred are cast from the Oval Office or Chicago is held hostage because of our views on new Americans.”
Shortly after his speech, Trump signed an executive order establishing a commission to study key police issues such as substance abuse, homelessness and mental illness.
The president also said he will seek the death penalty for individuals who murder police officers and boost law enforcement’s access to mental health services.
Attendees applauded loudly when Trump promised his administration will build more than 400 miles of wall at the southern U.S. border by 2020 and committed to tougher restrictions on legal immigration to the U.S.
Trump said Monday that Chicago is the “worst sanctuary city” in the nation, referring to the city’s policy of barring law enforcement from collaborating with federal immigration authorities.
Johnson said at a press conference following Trump’s speech that many Chicago communities have been “hurt” by the president’s policies.
“I work tirelessly to make this is a city where everyone can feel welcome,” Johnson said. “Today, the same police officers who the president criticized for their inability to protect this city spent all day protecting him.”
Following Trump’s comments, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot took to Twitter to say residents wouldn’t allow the president’s “ignorant buffoonery” to overshadow their status as a welcoming city.
“Rather than belittle Chicago’s communities with hateful and dishonest rhetoric, he needs to go back to D.C. and face his fate,” Lightfoot tweeted Monday. “President Trump knows as much about policing as he does running a fair and transparent government. I stand by the Superintendent for living up to the values of this great city and its residents.”
But Trump’s law enforcement-friendly policy moves have helped garner support for his re-election campaign on a national level.
Last month, the International Union of Police Associations endorsed the president, saying he has made communities safer by signing executive orders providing military equipment to police.
Thousands of protesters marched to Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago on Monday, where Trump is scheduled to attend a fundraiser co-hosted by Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts.
During a 2016 campaign stop in Chicago, Trump abandoned a scheduled rally after his supporters clashed violently with protesters.
Trump made no mention of the Chicago Teachers’ Union strike, which entered its eighth day Monday.