CHICAGO (CBS) — Dozens of Chicago Police officers are about to undergo training in new community policing strategies, as part of an expansion of a program city officials have said led to fewer 911 calls in the district where it started.
Chicago Police Supt. David Brown said 47 officers are beginning training to become “district coordinating officers” (DCOs) in the department’s Neighborhood Policing Initiative, which is designed to help CPD work more closely with residents in specific neighborhoods to address public safety issues.
Each DCO is expected to hand out their business card, including their cell phone number and email, and work one-on-one with people about non-emergency neighborhood issues, such as speeding cars and noise complaints.
After going through four weeks of training, the new DCOs will hit the streets in October in the 9th (Deering), 10th (Ogden), and 11th (Harrison) districts on the West and South sides.
CPD Cmdr. Angel Novalez, who heads the Office of Community Policing, said the training will include problem solving, community engagement, and district-specific culture and history. DCOs also will receive detective training.
“What we’re going to do is put officers out there that can do it all, and the one thing that we want to make sure that they do is help people and build those relationships,” Novalez said.
Brown said improved community policing will be key to the department’s efforts to fight violent crime.
“If Chicago’s going to be a safer city, reducing violent crime to historical lows, it will be because of community policing,” Brown said. “NPI, or the Neighborhood Policing Initiative, will be the primary reason when we reduce crime to historical lows.”
The Neighborhood Policing Initiative began in January 2019 as a pilot program in the 25th (Grand-Central) District on the Northwest Side, and has since been expanded to the 15th (Austin) District on the West Side.
According to the mayor’s office, between January and late August, officers in the 25th District received 1,538 fewer 911 calls than over the same period last year.
Brown said the program is designed to help officers better collaborate with the people they serve.
“Getting officers out of the cars and into the barbershops and beauty salons and churches and into the living rooms of our neighborhoods where they are assigned is community policing. Police officers handing out their business cards and their cell phone numbers and email addresses is community policing. Turning strangers into neighbors, and neighbors into partners as we work together to make our neighborhood and city safer is community policing,” Brown said.
Novalez said CPD also wants people in the neighborhoods to help police craft strategies for solving problems in their community.
“We want to empower people out in the community to take part in their very own solutions. We want their input when we’re creating a strategy. No more of the days where police are supposed to solve the problem by themselves. We’re going to do this with their input,” he said.