There will never be a better time for Mayor Richard M. Daley and Superintendent Jody Weiss to reallocate police officer personnel from low population, lower crime areas of the city to communities with higher crime. Although reallocation is not exactly the same as realigning the beats with current crime statistics, it can accomplish some of the same purposes without the inherent political backlash.
Under reallocation proposals being considered, lower crime communities do not “lose” police officers. With shifts in population from concentrated public housing and other demographic changes, reallocation can constitute a win for all of Chicago.
For years observers and researchers have discussed the qualitative differences in community police relations when beat offers are in place as part of the fabric of the community. Special Operation Services (SOS) and SWAT police teams cannot replace long-term professional civilian policing that seeks partnership with communities to root out bad apples and salvage wayward youngsters. Rounding up a bunch of young people from corners and giving wholesale criminals records make urban problems worse in the long run.
Police professionals, specifically beat officers, work with communities to help keep youth out of trouble and help seek alternatives to wholesale criminalization. Realigning beats, or at least reallocating resources, gives high crime communities and residents opportunities for professional civilian police services. It also gives young people and their families in these communities the same kind of opportunities for daily interaction with familiar police personnel other communities expect and enjoy.
Allocation of police personnel resources to communities based upon need is a gift and vision of One Chicago that Mayor Daley and Superintendent Weiss can give our city before they leave office. Their transition and freedom from the current political dynamics means the time could not be better to move on this.
Dr. Martin Luther King once said, “We are all tied together as a single garment of destiny.” No community is safer until all our communities are safer. Doing the right thing now will offer a proud legacy. Reallocate now. The citizens in all communities will, with understanding, be grateful.
Rev. Dr. Marshall Hatch, pastor of New Mt. Pilgrim Church