Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy didn’t wait for the hard questions to come to him Thursday during a “listening tour” stop on the West Side.
He jumped right into America’s legacy of segregation, said Ald. Walter Burnett (27th), who attended the meeting at the Garfield Park Hospital that was closed to media.
“The superintendent came out with that a lot of the stuff started from the past when we had segregation,” Burnett said. “And back when we had segregation, the image of the police was that they were segregating and beating up black people, and so some of those images are still existing with some folks in our society, and he just came out with it and said, ‘don’t nobody want to talk about race, but we need to talk about race because race is an issue, and there’s a challenge with people not feeling comfortable with each other because of pre-conceived notions, and we need to get past that.’ ”
Burnett said that of the about 40 people who gathered for the meeting, about 15 were police officers. The other 25 people were people who are invested in making the Garfield Park area a better place to live, such as teachers, social workers, block club leaders, and folks who attend regular meetings where police officers interact with the community.
“It was just a candid conversation,” Burnett said. “This is a high crime neighborhood. There’s a lot of violence and drugs. A lot of people are afraid to talk to the police and don’t trust the police.”
Burnett applauded a method he said McCarthy has been deploying in which police officers work on their relationships with members of the community they are charged with policing. “It’s public relations,” Burnett said.
Burnett said the absence of media was a good thing and allowed for a more frank discussion and less “performing for the cameras.”
McCarthy did not stick around to chat about the meeting with reporters.