CITY HALL — Alderpeople and community members are calling on Mayor Brandon Johnson to expand a community policing program.
The group delivered a letter — signed by about 300 community members and backed by alds. Michael Rodriguez (22nd), Chris Taliaferro (29th) and Desmon Yancy (5th) — to Johnson’s office Tuesday asking him to promote the Chicago Neighborhood Policing Initiative from a pilot to a citywide effort.
The program started in 2019 and has expanded to 10 more police districts on the South and West sides, though it remains a pilot.
Officers in the program are trained to meet face to face with residents, build community connections and share their emails and phone numbers so neighbors can contact them about non-emergency issues instead of calling 911.
More than 110 officers are active through the initiative, said its community director, Mecole Jordan-McBride. The program keeps officers in their assigned districts.
A spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office did not immediately return a request for comment.
The Police Department currently uses the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy initiative, which sees district police leaders hold meetings with neighbors and officials about crime trends. But Jordan-McBride said Johnson should take community policing “to the next level.”
Supporters of the Chicago Neighborhood Policing Initiative cited a 2021 report from Northwestern University that said “some positive progress” in the pilot program’s efforts to make police officers more visible in neighborhoods and their interactions more personalized.
“Now we need community policing to not just be a program, but a core philosophy of the department. Engaging the community should be who the Police Department is and not just what they do,” Jordan-McBride said. “Building relationships supports everyone on the ground.”
Deondre Rutues, a community engagement specialist with the initiative, said he’s heard stories of officers who are in the program helping a former drug dealer get boots for a new job, hanging around an open-air drug market to deter traffic, boarding up former trap houses and helping a struggling veteran with a hoarding issue in his home.
“They found the time for that because they were off the radio,” Rutues said.
Supporters said community policing has had a “lack of support” from the Police Department. But an elected police council member in each district could coordinate the program, they said.
Yancy, a newly elected alderman who has organized for civilian oversight of the department, said community policing “brings everyone together.”
“There are no bystanders,” Yancy said. “The policing philosophy establishes the kind of community-centered policing practices that ensure resident’s voices are heard.”
Taliaferro said robust community engagement is essential to reducing violence.
Rodriguez said an expansion of community policing would be a “game-changing opportunity for our city.”
“When police officers work collaboratively with residents, they gain a much deeper understanding of the challenges faced by our communities,” Rodriguez said. “It bridges the gap.”
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