City panel seeks to revitalize community policing

Wednesday, January 18, 2017
Panel seeks to revitalize Chicago community policing
The city's top cop is hearing ideas from community leaders and other experts Tuesday, days after that scathing Department of Justice report released last week.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Days after the U.S. Dept. of Justice released a scathing report on Chicago police conduct, an advisory panel on community policing met Tuesday to discuss solutions.

Despite the timing of the DOJ report, the advisory panel was first announced last October and Tuesday was the panel's first meeting. Its goal is to make Chicago the leader of community policing again.

Community policing was born in Chicago. Once a model for the country, community policing now struggles with a series "disconnected initiatives," according to last week's Department of Justice report. Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson hopes the advisory panel of experts will come up with solutions to revive community policing in Chicago.

"Our goal is make CPD the law enforcement model across the country and this is a huge piece of it," Johnson said.

Johnson said trust between the community and police is key to reducing and solving crimes. The panel includes national experts who insist community policing must be infused throughout the entire police department.

Among the national experts weighing in on this and future meetings is Tracey Meares, a Yale University law school professor who served on President Obama's task force on 21st century policing.

"The number one thing that we all need to understand is that the violence problem that Chicago is experiencing is also a function of the need for police reform," Meares said. "It has to be a way of doing business, not just a tactic."

With 764 people murdered in 2016, University of Chicago's Crime Lab says stronger community relations could improve things. On Tuesday, the crime lab released a new report about the huge spike in gun violence last year. It could not point to one specific reason why it was such a violent year. The report says weather patterns, access to guns, social and education spending all remained the same from 2015.

"One of the things that best fits the timing has to do with the number of street stops, but it's also important to note cities that experienced similar declines did not experience similar homicide rates in 2016," said Max Kapustin, University of Chicago Crime Lab.

The crime lab said shifting gang structures and social media could have played a role in the spike. However, there is no available data to measure.

The community policing advisory panel will meet several more times. It is expected to issue recommendations at the end of March.

Later Tuesday, Supt. Johnson met with a group of black youth activists. Youth for Black Lives said it plans to discuss several issues, including accountability for police brutality.

Johnson arrived at the meeting just a few minutes after its official starting time of 6 p.m. It was held Walter Payton College Prep on Chicago's Near North Side.

The students, who arranged regular meetings with Johnson after cancelling a protest over a police-involved shooting in the city's Mt. Greenwood neighborhood in November, said they want to see more done against police brutality. Johnson cautioned the group not to think every incident is an intentional act of violence.