MOVING UP: Former West Side commander Barbara West. | File photo

The Chicago Police Department recently announced a massive organizational restructuring that department officials say will put hundreds of police officers and detectives back in the neighborhoods and help the department carry out the critical reforms required under a federal consent decree. 

The restructuring creates two new offices that will be responsible for executing those two main objectives — the Office of Operations and the Office of Constitutional Policing and Reform Management. And the latter is headed by Barbara West, who has spent most of her career on the West Side. As head of the reform-minded office, West is the highest-ranking black female officer in the department’s history. 

The department announced the major overhaul on Jan. 30 and revealed the personnel changes on Jan. 31. In a statement, department officials said that restructuring “is aligned with national best practices seen at other major U.S. police departments” and will “modernize the department’s functions and responsibilities.” 

The restructuring calls for deploying more than 1,100 police officers and detectives—including nearly 300 burglary, robbery and theft detectives; more than 800 gang intelligence and narcotics officers and detectives from centralized facilities — back to the department’s 22 districts and under the authority of district commanders and five area deputy chiefs. 

The move, department officials said in a statement released Jan. 30, will address the “self-imposed organizational barriers [that] have led to inadequate staffing and resources in units and districts due to a lack of internal coordination between bureaus.” 

The restructuring also creates a new Bureau of Counter-terrorism, which is responsible for all of the district’s targeted operations into domestic and international criminal enterprises and for responding to terrorist attacks. 

The restructuring will take place “over the next several months in three phases, the first of which will be implemented next month with several command staff changes to fill the positions created by the new organizational structure,” according to the Jan. 30 statement. 

The more than 1,100 officers and detectives are scheduled to be placed under new command in the spring. 

“This reorganization is about placing the maximum level of police resources closest to the communities that we serve,” said Interim Supt. Charlie Beck. “In addition to district accountability, the restructuring will bring more resources directly to communities under a single chain of command and elevate the reform effort that is crucial to the future of policing in Chicago.” 

As deputy superintendent of constitutional policing and reform, West report only to the superintendent and will manage “a wide range of reforms as part of the consent decree, including community policing, training, use of force, manpower and supervision, and the related issues of transparency and accountability.” 

This is the second promotion for West since 2012, when she was promoted to 15th District commander. She was reassigned to command the 11th District in 2015 before being promoted to chief of the Bureau of Organizational Development, the position she currently has. Her appointment to deputy chief, which takes effect Feb. 16, will make her the highest-ranking female black officer in the department’s history.  

West comes into the office a year after a federal judge approved a consent decree between the state of Illinois and the city of Chicago that calls for the Chicago Police Department to enact a series of reforms. 

Required changes include the implementation of enhanced de-escalation tactics, the tracking and analysis of how frequently officers engage in foot pursuits, the hiring of more licensed mental health professional staff and the monthly publication of use-of-force data, among many others, according to a summary of the decree published by the Illinois State Attorney General’s office. 

“The Chicago Police Department is working tirelessly to become a model of excellence in public service and constitutional policing that our entire city can be proud of,” West said in the department’s statement released Jan. 30. “Our roadmap to get there lies in the consent decree that was developed by officers, residents and national experts, and I am privileged to build upon the progress towards creating a world-class agency.” 

As Austin Weekly News previously reported, West began her career with the department as a rookie cop, patrolling Beat 1523 in Austin’s 15th Police District, before her promotion to that district’s commander sixteen years later. 

On her way to commander, West worked in “internal affairs, community policing and human resources,” according to a 2012 Austin Weekly News article. 

During an interview at the time, West said she owes her career in law enforcement to TV shows like “Charlie’s Angels” and “Get Christie Love!” The latter is about a black female detective who popularized the catchphrase: “You’re under arrest, Sugar!” 

“She was my role model back in the day,” West said at the time. “She was the first female black police private detective that I ever seen on TV.”

West graduated from Whitney Young High School and Illinois State University. She has an MBA from Saint Xavier University and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and the Major Cities Chiefs Police Executive Leadership Institute, according to department officials. 


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