Chicago program helps leaders across country bridge gaps between their communities and police

ByJasmine Minor WLS logo
Monday, September 11, 2023
Chicago program helps community leaders bridge gaps with police
Community leaders from across the country traveled to Chicago to learn about preventing gun violence and bridge gaps with police departments.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Over 100 community leaders from all over the country applied for this program, but only 31 are spending the next six months learning what they say is the key to driving down gun violence and bridging the gap between them and police.

"Many of us having been doing this with great risk to ourselves and our families. We've been laughed out of rooms," said Pastor Michael McBride with Live Free USA.

Patrick Young flew to Chicago from New Orleans. He's one of 31 community leaders seeking new strategies to end gun violence through the six-month Community Violence Intervention Leadership Academy.

"We can't have peace working in pieces. Too many times we're working in silos, not working together," Young said. "New Orleans has been one of the top five most violent cities over the last 40 years."

The Chicago Crime Lab said gun violence is the leading cause of death for Black men in Chicago. They said it's more than the next nine leading causes of death combined.

"Really trying to address the root causes of what can lead to crime," said Houston Community Violence Intervention leader Lupe Washington.

Dr. Chico Tillman, leader of the academy, said the students get hands-on training for things like program management, data literacy and staff retention.

"I want safer and healthier communities and less Black and brown people to die over senseless gun violence," Tillmon said.

Ultimately, they said, it's the ability to work with police that's the key.

"So, people who come after us don't have to start from scratch," McBride said.

In cities where community violence intervention is welcome, data shows major declines in gun violence.

"It's very much a marriage. It's learning to hear each other when we talk and learning to respect each other," said Former Interim CPD Supt. Charlie Beck. "My message would be, for Chicago, 'Support the police department. They need you.'"

Students will be there for one week, and then, they also have trips planned to New York and Oakland over the next few weeks.