CHICAGO (CBS) — The Chicago Police Departments new Community Policing Advisory Panel held its first meeting Tuesday morning, in an effort to help come up with a strategic plan to make Chicago safer.
The 12-member panel is made up community leaders, law enforcement officials, and local and national experts on policing. The panel has been tasked with coming up with recommendations for developing a new community policing strategy in Chicago.
One of the panelists, Yale University law professor Tracey Meares, served on President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. She said the best way to enhance trust and legitimacy for the department is through intense community engagement.
“It has to be infused throughout what the department does. It has to be a way of doing business, not just a tactic,” Meares said.
Police Supt. Eddie Johnson acknowledged the department already has a lot on its plate, with the city about to hire hundreds of new officers, new cross-training programs to help officers and other first responders recognize and deal with cases of mental illness, and other major reforms expected to be part of a negotiated consent decree in the wake of a scathing Justice Department investigation of police use of force in Chicago.
“I don’t think the focus should be on making reforms quick enough. I think what we should focus on is making reforms the right way. So we want to get it right. We don’t want to have to go back and do it again. So I think that, can we juggle these multiple balls? We’re going to have to,” Johnson said.
Meares said the number one thing to understand is the city’s problem with gun violence is a function of the need for police reform.
“In other words, you can’t make changes in terms of enhancing trust and legitimacy, and think that that’s a separate project from violence reduction, because it’s not,” she said.
The superintendent said he is committed to making the Chicago Police Department a model for community policing.
“You know, in the 90s, we were the leader in community policing throughout the country, and we’ve kind of lost some of that luster, but we fully intend on returning back to the number one position,” Johnson said. “I think there was a lot of issues to – as you put it – make it go off the rails, but I really … it’s difficult for me to speak on, so I’m not going to worry about what happened before.”
Meares said the city’s commitment to community policing diminished over time, and a new approach is necessary.
Johnson said he expects to have the panel’s recommendations on his desk by the end of March. While any recommendations made will not be binding on the department, police leaders said they do expect to implement the new strategies.