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Mayor Revamps CAPS, Giving Police Districts More Control

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Supt. Garry McCarthy. (Credit: Craig Dellimore/WBBM Newsradio)

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Supt. Garry McCarthy. (Credit: Craig Dellimore/WBBM Newsradio)

Updated 01/08/13 – 5:53 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — Police districts are now taking more control of what once was a thriving community policing program in the city, known as CAPS.

WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said Tuesday that individual district commanders will have the power to design their own community outreach programs under the new Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS), and have the responsibility for making community policing work.

“Previously, community policing strategies were managed from headquarters, which just doesn’t make sense,” McCarthy said. “The needs of each community are unique, so we cannot apply a cookie-cutter approach to community outreach and services.”

CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports the news conference announcing the new CAPS strategy – held at the Grand Crossing District police station not far from an area of the South Shore neighborhood known as “Terror Town” – was a study in contrasts.

Just a few feet away from the gathering of police officers, politicians and pastors who hope the new CAPS plan would work sat powerful evidence of past failings: scores of firearms seized by police.

Several assault weapons were among the 180 guns seized by police in the first week of 2013 alone.

“Can you imagine facing that thing in an alleyway late at night?” McCarthy said as he pointed toward an AK-47.

McCarthy and Mayor Rahm Emanuel said they are hopeful that the new community policing strategy will help create trust between local residents and police officers, and help get more guns – and those who use them – off the streets.

“For too long, community policing became a bureaucracy downtown,” Emanuel said. “I told Garry and [First Deputy Supt. Al Wysinger], when we met, that we were gonna make a change here, and put all the resources that were in the headquarters and downtown, and move them out to the districts.”

Ald. Willie Cochran (20th), a former police officer, applauded the changes to CAPS, but said he’s waiting before passing judgment on whether the new approach is a better one.

“It remains to be seen. We are just implementing this new program,” he said.

McCarthy hopes putting CAPS officers back into the communities will build on an independent survey he said shows an already improving relationship between police and the people they serve.

“About an 80% satisfied or pleased with the way that people were handled,” he said.

Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) expressed some skepticism about that survey.

“I don’t know where they did the interviews, and where they asked the questions, because I know that the people in my community would beg to differ,” she said.

Hairston said the real question is whether local residents feel safer.

The answer to that is no, but if police, and the new CAPS can develop relationships with the community, a new level of trust could lead to more cooperation.

McCarthy was already reaching out to local celebrities to get them involved in the new program, among them Bulls star and Englewood native Derrick Rose.

While decentralization might revitalize CAPS, the Emanuel administration is not dedicating more funds or manpower to the effort.

McCarthy said all officers will be doing community outreach.