New Chicago cops get their assignments, but neighborhood hopes tempered

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Eighty two new Chicago police officers got their assignments Monday as the first class of 2017 to hit the streets after completing their training.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel touted the impact new officer training is having in reducing shootings in murders. Shootings in Englewood are down more than 40 percent from 2016, and the mayor and police brass believe part of the reason is the greater attention being placed on community policing. But in the neighborhood, hope for change is a bit more tempered.

"I would hope to see people who are rooted in the community be recruited," said Asiaha Butler, present of the Resident Association of Greater Englewood (RAGE).

In the heart of Englewood, Butler started RAGE to try to make a difference. She hopes Chicago police will succeed in doing their part by how they recruit and train their officers.

"If these officers are not culturally sensitive and do not treat citizens like the upstanding citizens that they are, it's just going to be another cycle of distrust among the force and the citizens," she said.

Monday at the 7th District police headquarters, Mayor Emanuel joined police in announcing 82 new officers are hitting the streets, and another 100 recruits will be joining the force every month through the end of 2018.

"There's nothing as powerful as partnership between the police officers and the residents that make up that particular area. When that partnership is working, everything's gonna work on public safety," Emanuel said.

The mayor pointed to the dramatic reduction in shootings this year, which he attributed to technology and police-community engagement.

"Here in Englewood, in the 7th District, down 43 percent in shootings. I'd like to put a little finer detail on that for you. The last eight days, not a single shooting in this district," he said.

But crime and blight and economic hardships remain facts of life in Englewood, presenting a challenge to the officers who patrol those streets. Butler has advice for them.

"Really understand community engagement, and understand that most of us in the community just want a safe and walkable community and we're not all criminals," she said.

Which is what the department has made a core policy.

"It's not an office, community policing, it's a philosophy, and we want every recruit that comes out to be a community policing officer, to be a partner with the community and the citizens," said First Deputy Superintendent Kevin Navarro.

The department's new use of force policy went into effect Monday. It focuses on de-escalation and what the department calls the "sanctity of life" principle.

Monday is also the deadline for applicants to apply to be a Chicago police officer. So far nearly 10,000 have done so, and 77 percent of them are minorities.
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