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State & Local Government

Chicago’s Alternative Policing Strategy

Richard M. Daley

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak before the American Bar Association’s Section of State and Local Government Law. Normally such sessions are devoted to discussions about issues of law that lawyers must address to help their clients prevent or resolve disputes.

I chose to discuss with the participants a more basic issue of law in our cities today—the operations and conduct of our police. More specifically, I talked about community policing.

For our citizens, the law begins in their communities. They need to feel safe at home and on their sidewalks. They want and expect their children to be safe at school, and they want to be able to get to work and back without danger. And they want their police officers to be trusted members of their communities.

The first line of the law for our citizens is not a lawyer; it is a police officer. The goal of community policing is to create a real partnership between the police and the communities they serve.

While many other cities have instituted community policing programs, ours is a true makeover of the entire policing system. Community policing means reinventing the Chicago Police Department. We have not just added police officers; we have returned officers to the communities.

The concept cannot work without citizen involvement and a stronger connection between police officers and their communities. Community residents have to take responsibility and be equal partners in law enforcement. We can provide the resources and make police officers more accessible, but residents have to take some extra steps.

That means working together with police and getting involved—instead of looking the other way when they see crime and leaving it to someone else to report. It means working with police to identify problems and situations that spell trouble, so crimes can be prevented before they occur.

To reduce crime in communities, the police, the community, and other government agencies and service providers must work together. Our community policing program works to identify and solve problems of crime and disorder and to improve the quality of life in all of Chicago’s neighborhoods.

Our program officially began in April 1993 on a prototype basis in five of Chicago’s twenty-five police districts. Today, community policing is in every district of the city, in all twenty-five districts and 279 beats.

An important part of this program has been the hiring, training, and deployment of new police officers. During my administration, the Department’s total sworn strength has grown by more than 1,000.

Unlike other cities around the country, we did not wake up one day and declare a new crime-fighting strategy. Several rounds of officer and supervisor training have been conducted to ensure that all police officers understand their role in community policing. This training is necessary because the community policing program has reorganized the entire Chicago Police Department around small geographic areas. Officers are now assigned to consistent beats; regular "beat meetings" are being held in all districts. Beat patrols identify and deal with neighborhood problems and meet regularly with residents and community organizations. Rapid response units have been created to deal with 911 and emergency calls, freeing beat officers to concentrate on neighborhood problems and to develop creative solutions. At the police district level, advisory committees have been formed to discuss strategic issues with district commanders.

In addition, Chicago is the first city to bring other agencies of government into the process. Our police office is holding monthly community meetings with people on their beats to discuss local problems and to handle public safety problems. Officers are helping to cut through the red tape, leading us to tear down abandoned buildings, tow away abandoned cars, erase graffiti, improve street lighting, and remove pay phones used by drug dealers. As mayor, I have directed all city agencies to assist and cooperate with these kinds of police department requests that impact the safety and quality of life of our communities.

Other changes are also taking place as a result of CAPS. New technology is helping police and community better analyze crime problems. We are using technology to strengthen the partnership between police and community, and to help us work together on identifying and solving crime problems in our neighborhoods.

An excellent example of the innovative use of technology is ICAM (Infor-mation Collection for Automated Mapping)—an easy-to-use, PC-based, mouse-driven mapping system created by Chicago police officers. ICAM has been installed in all twenty-five of our police district stations so that police personnel—from beat officers to commanders—can quickly and easily generate maps showing the crime patterns in their particular neighborhoods. Just as important, ICAM is allowing police personnel to share this information with the community, so that it can be better informed and empowered to solve problems.

ICAM is only one example of how we are using technology to support police—community problem solving. We are also equipping police officers and community members with cellular phones and voice mail so that they can communicate with one another more quickly and easily.

And we are in the process of building a new 9-1-1 Emergency Communications Center that will not only improve our response to emergency calls for police service, but also provide useful information for pinpointing and tracking neighborhood crime patterns.

The Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority recently studied the effect of CAPS in our five prototype districts. It discovered that there were significant decreases in perceived crime problems in all five areas.

For the first seventeen months after the program began, there were fewer recorded robberies in all five prototypes, and less burglary than predicted in three of the five districts. According to residents, police service and responsiveness have improved. This is a very important measure of our success.

People need to believe that police officers are working in their interests and are available to address their concerns. The key to this program’s success will be how effectively our citizens and the police work together.

Richard M. Daley is the Mayor of the City of Chicago.

This article originally appeared in State & Local Law News, Fall 1996 (19:1).

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