Mayor Emanuel and Superintendent McCarthy are constantly telling anyone who will listen that the community needs to become more involved if they want to stop the crime and gun violence in Chicago. The Superintendent has just completed a “listening tour”. Apparently “listening” does not mean “hearing”. If the Mayor and Superintendent truly want community involvement, they should make it clear to the District Commanders and CAPS Sergeants what “listening to the community means”.
All of the Police Districts are divided into beats. Beat 2532, in the 25th District, had a commander, a CAPS Sergeant, beat Officers and two beat facilitators who were engaged and effective. Superintendent McCarthy’s “two year” limit ensured that Commander Navarro, who worked well with the community, was replaced. The CAPS sergeant and officers were moved to different positions in the department and a new sergeant and officers were assigned.
Leroy Duncan, one of the beat facilitators, ran for 37th Ward Alderman (opposing Emma Mitts) and was asked to step down. He was told that, if he did not win, he would be reinstated. After the election was over, CAPS Sergeant Fico told Leroy that the residents of the community would need to vote to reinstate him. There was a near unanimous vote for his reinstatement. All of the residents of the community who voted for Leroy thought that they would once again have a leader they trusted to work with the police officers on their behalf; however, Leroy was informed that he would need to fill out another application and be interviewed by Commander Pena.
Leroy was later informed that, according to the “Beat Facilitator Bylaws”, there is a two-year limit for service (he had served for five years) and he would be replaced by another applicant. At the Beat Meeting on June 23, the residents of the community were informed that the new beat facilitator did not need to be voted in by the residents of the community, because the commander has the right to choose the person that he or she wants to have the position.
The residents of the community would like to have the following questions answered. (1) If there is a two-year term limit, why are there people who have been beat facilitators for 10 to 20 years? (2) If the police are supposed to be “listening” to the community, why was Leroy replaced after a near unanimous vote? (3) The residents of the community are also wondering whether or not outside influence caused Commander Pena to make a decision that is not in line with what they want?
When Leroy and I started attending beat meetings six years ago, all we heard was anger from the residents and “we can’t do that” from the officers. All of that changed after Leroy made sure the residents were informed (e.g., through providing meeting minutes; publicizing city ordinances; and following up with police officers regarding community problems). The meetings were no longer combative and the residents were willing to share information with the police officers. The police officers stopped telling us what they could not do and instead said that they would work on the problem.
Violating the trust of the community is the kind of event that ensures that the gap between the community and police with continue to grow. It’s time to stop “listening” and start “hearing”.