15th District Commander Ernest Cato, who was recently promoted to deputy chief of patrol. | Photo submitted

The 15th Police District Commander, Ernest Cato III, has been promoted to deputy chief of patrol (North) overseeing nine districts on the North and West sides.

As he wraps up his work in the 15th District, Cato said he’ll continue to work for Austin.

“I will continue to come to this community to show the support that’s necessary to help rebuild our communities,” Cato said in an interview Saturday. “The goal is to bring more collaboration and cooperation with police and organizations in the communities that we serve.”

A 29-year Chicago Police Department veteran, Cato started at the Austin district as tactical lieutenant a little over three years ago before replacing the previous commander, Dwayne Betts, in December 2017.

“When he became commander he was very involved,” said Rev. Steve M. Epting, pastor of Hope Community Church and a member of the CAPS Faith Based Committee. “He supported the efforts that the community had, including night walks, corner prayers and community connections training.”

Cato helped develop and implement community-based programs such as the 100 Churches & 100 Blocks Program and the Austin Response Team (A.R.T.) during his time as commander. Cato, who has a master’s degree in public safety administration from Lewis University, also served the U.S. Department of State in South Africa, where he assisted in building community policing programs.

“We’ve put something in place here where we have empowered the community to assist the police,” said Cato, who added it takes the community and police working together to reduce violence.

Added Epting: “I’m sad to see him leave, but I’m also excited because he can help continue to formalize a more community-friendly police organization.”

Others like Rev. Ira Acree, pastor of the Greater St. John Bible Church, remembers past commanders and believes Cato’s successor will be filling some big shoes.

“He took it to another level as it relates to police and community relations,” Acree said. “We’re a long way from where we used to be, and we appreciate that.”

Replacing Cato as the Austin commander will be Yolanda Talley, who served as a watch operations lieutenant in the 15th District for two years and has 25 years of experience with the police department.

Before becoming a lieutenant, Talley was a sergeant in human resources and a sergeant in the 7th District (Englewood). She also has worked as an undercover narcotics officer and been a member of the DEA/HIDTA task force. A graduate of Northwestern University’s School of Police Staff and Command, she also earned a master’s degree in forensic sociology from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology.

“She’s not new to what we’re doing here already,” Cato said. “She understands the importance of cooperation and collaboration. She also understands the importance of having positive engagements with our youth.”

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