Chicago’s police chief announces new community policing plan

CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago’s police superintendent announced Friday that all facets of the department — from patrol officers to executive staff — will be more engaged with the community in an effort to build trust and drive down crime.

The new Community Policing Strategy Plan also includes the creation of a police athletic and arts league to engage the city’s youth, a reimagining of the city’s previous policing strategy, and the appointment of officers to work as liaisons to the city’s LGBTQ, homeless, immigrant and and religious communities.

“Arguably, this will be the most significant commitment of effort, resources and leadership to building trust in Chicago PD’s history,” Police Superintendent David Brown told reporters. “This plan that we’re rolling out today is the best way to reduce crime in Chicago.”

“It’s the only way to police,” Brown added. “Policing is best done with the community involved. Policing is a people business.”

The announcement comes at a time when relations between Chicago police and many in the city’s Black and Latino communities are frayed following high-profile shootings by officers and nationwide protests against police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s slaying in May 2020 by a white Minneapolis police officer.

In 2014, Laquan McDonald, who was Black, was shot to death as the 17-year-old walked away from police on a street in southwestern Chicago while holding a knife. Video showed white Officer Jason Van Dyke firing 16 shots at McDonald. Van Dyke was convicted in 2018 of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery in McDonald’s killing. He was sentenced to six years and nine months in prison.

Members of Chicago’s Latino community have asked the Justice Department to get involved in the March fatal shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo as he was chased down an alley by Eric Stillman, a white officer.

Body camera video shows the teen appearing to drop a handgun and begin raising his hands less than a second before Stillman fires his gun and kills him. The video prompted grief and demonstrations in Chicago.

The addition of liaisons to the LGBTQ and other communities are part of the expansion of the police department’s civil rights unit.

“We recognized that marginalized communities needed their voices elevated. we understood that our relationships with these communities was not where we wanted them to be,” said Deputy Chief Angel Novalez, head of the city’s community policing office.

The new plan appears to be an update to the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy, which was launched in 1994 and called for people living in the city’s neighborhoods to help the police department identify problems and help with solutions, according to a 2000 report in the National Institute of Justice.

If Brown’s announcement sounds familiar, it is because previous police superintendents have made a point of announcing similar efforts. In 2013, for example, then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel and then-Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, announced a plan to restructure CAPS to better combat violent crime.

Ja’Mal Green, an activist with a youth mentorship group in Chicago, doubts if the plan announced Friday will work. He says people in some city neighborhoods have history and reasons to not trust police officers.

“We have to look at reorganizing public safety, as a whole,” Green said. “People do not trust police. They are traumatized when they see them. We have not gotten to the place where police are on the street serving as they say they are.”

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