CPD revamps CAPS, may turn to celebrities to break code of silence

January 8, 2013 2:59:53 PM PST
Almost 200 guns- mostly assault weapons- have been taken off of Chicago streets in just the first week of 2013.

Police displayed the weapons as the city unveiled its plan to decentralize community policing, known as the CAPS program.

"For too long community policing became a bureaucracy downtown in headquarters," Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said.

CAPS started as a program to connect police officers to members of the community. But between budget cuts and moving officers out of the community, the program lost its effectiveness. Now, the mayor and Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy announced a major shift in which each district commander will be responsible for designing its own CAPS program

"The needs in each community we serve are unique, so we cannot apply a cookie cutter approach to community outreach and services," Supt. McCarthy said.

But while McCarthy calls the changes a return to community policing, only 50 caps officers will be moved from headquarters into the districts. Reverend Marshall Hatch, New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church on the city's West Side, calls the decentralization a good small step, but adds that more money and more police are needed to solve the problem of gun violence.

"Beat officers who are part of the fabric of the community. So not special police, not jump out boys and girls, but people who patrol the community day after day," Rev. Marshall Hatch said.

McCarthy acknowledged that a CAPS revitalization is just part of the solution. He also said he's considering using celebrity spokespeople to help convince community members to break the code of silence that often impedes police investigations.

More than 2,500 officers and 400 beat recruits have already completed the new CAPS training.