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Community Policing Expanding On South, West Sides: ‘This Is What Policing Is And Should Be’

The program focuses on officers interacting more with residents and sharing their phone numbers and emails so they can deal with non-emergency issues.

Police Supt. David Brown and Mayor Lori Lightfoot announce an expansion of community policing initiatives on August 20, 2020.
Chicago Police Department
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CHICAGO — The Police Department is expanding its neighborhood policing program to three more parts of Chicago.

The program focuses on appointing district coordination officers who meet face-to-face with residents and give them their emails and phone numbers. Residents can contact the officers about non-emergency issues instead of calling 911.

The program was piloted in the 25th District on the Northwest Side and will soon start in the 9th, 10th and 11th districts on the South and West sides, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Police Supt. David Brown announced Thursday. Training for officers and supervisors will begin in September and they’ll start their work in the fall.

“This is what policing is and should be,” Brown said at a press conference. “Community policing is perhaps the most important tool” police can implement.

Still, the program is coming amid national and local calls for police departments to be defunded and for cities to put fewer officers on the streets.

Police hope the program will lead to increased trust between officers and residents and fewer calls to 911 for non-urgent public safety issues.

When the program starts, the police districts will be broken down into groups of three police beats, with two officers assigned to each group. Community Policing Chief Angel Novalez said their goal is for officers to spend at least 80 percent of their time working in those beats.

The officers will talk with residents in person to build trust and share information, officials said. They’ll be given cellphones so residents can call and email them at any time instead of calling 911 for non-emergency matters.

The district coordination officers will work to solve those problems with the help of other police, the alderman, area businesses and city officials, Novalez said. The Police Department will also hold meetings to engage with residents.

Officers have to apply for the positions, and the department will give extra consideration to officers who are applying to be a district coordination officer for an area they’re from, Novalez said.

During the trial in the 25th District, the program led to a drop in 911 calls, which means officers had more time to connect with the community and solve problems, Brown said.

The program could eventually be expanded across the city, Lightfoot said, but officials will first focus on getting resources to areas that have the “largest challenges.”

“It means more collaboration, more connection and more trust,” Lightfoot said. “All of which has given both residents and officers the basis to build authentic relationships, which is at the heart of community policing.”

Lightfoot and Brown have pushed back on demands to defund police. Instead, the mayor has said, the city should invest more in health and social services and should make reforms within the Police Department

One of those reforms is coming soon, Lightfoot said Thursday: A Community Training Academy is being tested in the 9th, 10th and 11th districts. Officers assigned to a district’s community policing office will go through the three-day training to learn about the history of the communities in which they police and will meet local leaders.

The academy was organized with local organizations like the Metropolitan Peace Academy and will start as a pilot program.

“No single program will solve every problem or bridge every divide between our police and community, issues that have been brewing for years,” Lightfoot said. But, she said, the city needs to address issues in a “forward-thinking, positive way” with stakeholders.

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