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Police Plan ‘Open Conversation’ About Treatment Of Marginalized Groups In Series Of Meetings Starting In Uptown

How can police better serve victims of hate crimes or transgender individuals? You can weigh in at upcoming meetings.

File photo.
Lee Edwards / Block Club Chicago
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UPTOWN — The Chicago Police Department will hold a series of public meetings next week to discuss new policies on how officers interact with multiple marginalized groups, including the transgender community, those with mental health issues and victims of hate crimes.

As part of its efforts to reform the department following a scathing Department of Justice review into its handling of civil rights issues, Chicago Police are working on a set of new policy measures governing how officers interact with Chicago’s population. A set of 14 new initiatives will be discussed at four community meetings, starting Feb. 4 at Truman College, 1145 W. Wilson Ave. in Uptown.

For example, the department’s existing policy on interactions with the transgender community includes protections against formal discrimination. Now, the department is seeking to set standards for respecting an individual’s “gender identity, without requiring proof,” according to a police document on the topic.

The meetings will seek to incorporate community input on a host of policy reform initiatives, including the use of force, interactions with youth and interactions with those who don’t speak English. The department will also implement for the first time formal policies in three areas: interactions with people with disabilities, interactions with religious people and a policy prohibiting sexual misconduct by officers.

Christina Anderson, director of reform management at the Chicago Police Department, said the department is seeking the public’s input as how to best achieve such policy goals.

“There are some things the communities face that officers can better understand,” Anderson said. “We really want to just get this started and give people an opportunity to start engaging in the conversation.”

A federal consent decree stemming from the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in 2016 has mandated that the police department reform a number of its practices, including to its training, supervision and community interactions.

After six months under the consent decree, Chicago Police were criticized for failing to adequately seek community input in the early part of the reform process, according to a federal oversight report issued late last year that was covered by the Chicago Tribune.

Now, the department will begin to publicly discuss for the first time the ways it plans to reform how officers interact with the public.

At the public meetings, the police department will set up stations for each of the 14 policy initiatives. Members of the public will be able to visit the stations for policy areas they are interested in. At each station, the department will have a note taker and a subject matter expert, said Sudip Singh, deputy director of community policing.

The Uptown meeting will have two separate sessions, with seven policy topics each. That will allow people to visit more stations, Singh said. The meeting will run from 6-9 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 4, inside Truman College’s cafeteria.

“The goal is to really just have an open conversation,” Singh said. “We’re looking for any input at this time on those policies. We want to do everything we can to ensure a free flow of conversation.”

To plan the meetings, Chicago Police reached out to community groups on how it should incorporate public feedback into its reform efforts. That includes working with institutions like One Northside, which in 2017 joined agencies like the American Civil Liberties Union in suing the Chicago Police Department. The lawsuit sought to include the concerns of citizens in reform efforts.

One Northside, an Uptown-based advocacy group, has counseled victims of police misconduct and has also previously helped Town Hall district officers draft practices to work with the transgender community. Though the organization gave input on the upcoming police meetings, One Northside volunteers aren’t convinced the meetings will lead to better community interaction or to police policies that reflect neighbors’ concerns.

The group has taken issue with the number of topics to be discussed, with 14 policy initiatives being addressed at a three hour meeting. The group also isn’t sure if the small-group setting is the best way to gauge community consensus on an issue.

“They seem to be rushing the process and checking the boxes,” said Carla Langston, an Uptown resident and volunteer with One Northside’s police accountability department. “There’s a strong sense from CPD because they think the community doesn’t have the experience [of being an officer]. Well, the community has a lot of experience dealing with the police.”

Anna Mangahas, community outreach coordinator at One Northside, said that her group offered the police department a number of “best practices” for community meetings. Police took One Northside up on its request that department personnel at the meeting wear polo shirts, not police uniforms, Mangahas said. She hopes the department will be open to other ways to reform its community interactions.

“We’ve been to really bad [police] community meetings,” Mangahas said. “There is an opportunity here for CPD to step up and improve something. It’s not about trying to check the box.”

Police officials agree that 14 policy topics is a lot to discuss at a three-hour community event, Anderson said. Some of that is dictated by the consent decree. The same 14 topics will be discussed at each of the four meetings, giving the public multiple opportunities to weigh in, she said. (For a full list of of the 14 policy issues to be discussed at the meetings, click here.)

This round of meetings is only the first of many community input opportunities before the new policies are adopted, police officials said. Chicago Police will form working groups made of members of the public to take a deeper dive into some of the policy topics, including use of force, Anderson said. Those interested in participating in the working groups can learn more here.

Draft policies will eventually be submitted for approval to the federal agencies overseeing the consent decree. A final draft policy will then be posted online for a 15-day public review process, with formal adoption only coming after that point, police officials said.

“This is very new to CPD,” Anderson said. “We’ve been learning as we go. Community engagement is the kind of thing an organization has to learn by doing. We spent a lot of time in a lot of conference rooms talking about how to do this. We really think we just have to get out there and do it.”

The first of four community meetings on the new police policies will take place from 6-9 p.m. on Feb. 4 at Truman College’s cafeteria, 1145 W. Wilson Ave. Other meetings will take place:

Wednesday, February 5th
6:00 to 9:00 p.m.

Kennedy King College – The Great Hall
740 W. 63rd St.
Free parking in student lot at 65th & Halsted

Thursday, February 6th
6:00 to 9:00 p.m.

JLM Abundant Life Center
2622 W. Jackson Blvd.

Saturday, February 8th
10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Daley College
7500 S. Pulaski Rd.

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