SOUTH SHORE — The old South Shore High School will become a temporary police professional development center for at least the next two years, the Chicago Police Department and Ald. Michelle Harris (8th) announced at a community meeting Friday night.
The training center at the shuttered high school, 7627 S. Constance Ave., was created under a federal consent decree that requires ongoing training for officers on deescalation strategies and accountability for their use of force.
Residents can expect a greater police presence around the former school site and Rosenblum Park, 7547 S. Euclid Ave., Harris said in a Facebook post.
The Chicago Police Department signed a two-year lease on the building, according to Harris’ director of community engagement Alvin Rider.
The building has been vacant since 2014, when school operations were moved to the newer South Shore International College Preparatory High School, 1955 E. 75th St.
The department was drawn to South Shore because the former school site has been “kept up wonderfully” and has a pool for the department to conduct scuba team training, Rider said.
A meeting was held Friday night to address the concerns of nearby residents.
Meeting attendees were primarily concerned with how the center would affect parking in the neighborhood, Rider said. They also wanted to ensure the police department would be “good neighbors” as they moved into South Shore.
Rider said Harris’ office is in contact with owners of vacant lots at 75th and 76th Streets and Jeffery Boulevard, to see if they would lease property for additional off-site parking.
Numerous neighbors on Facebook wondered why they weren’t alerted of the meeting, though online reactions to the news of the center’s arrival were mostly positive.
Harris’ office targeted “residents who would be directly impacted by the large number of police [personnel] coming into the neighborhood,” Rider said, adding that CPD “did a broader invite” to other areas of the community.
The alderman’s office only posted flyers about the meeting along blocks of Ridgeland, Cregier, Constance, Bennett and Euclid Avenues that are closest to the old school site, Rider said.
“We [have] over 55,000 residents in the 8th, and unfortunately we just don’t have the resources to do mass mailings to [the] entire ward on every issue,” Rider said on Facebook.
The meeting was not posted on the alderman’s website or social media pages, either.
“Even though I am not right across the street from [the] school, I am in walking distance [of] 78th [and] Jeffery and I have sons who may be impacted,” one commenter said. “[T]heir well being is also important.”
“More training should equate to better strategies to prevent and combat crime and better community relations with residents,” another commenter said. “We welcome the CPD to South Shore!”
Plans to turn the old high school into a training academy for police and firefighters fell apart last April. CTU President Jesse Sharkey called the plans “a slap in the face of the community.”
A controversial $95 million police and firefighter training academy is also planned for the city’s West Side.
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