More than 1,000 people have been shot in Chicago so far this year. The violence has touched the city’s high school basketball community especially hard the past few years, prompting a group of Chicago Public Schools high school basketball coaches to organize an anti-violence group: Coaches United Against Violence.
Monday night on the West Side the group, along with several high school basketball players, met with Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy. It wasn’t just a hand-slapping meet and greet. The group had several very specific plans and programs it shared with McCarthy.
Westinghouse basketball coach Bill Curry laid them out:
“The first is cultural understanding,” said Curry. “Understand not just who is in the neighborhood, but how that neighborhood works socially.
“The second is to train officers to come back to a group of people that they may have misinterpreted and post-event admit their mistake and apologize. That would go a long way towards building trust.”
“The third is to create a parents’ toolkit. How the average parent in Chicago who might be on the other side of cultural privilege can train their kids to have healthy interactions with the police force.”
McCarthy was receptive to the ideas.
“Anytime we can partner with the community it’s a good thing,” said McCarthy. “There are some real tangible things that we are going to be doing here so I’m pleased with it.”
The meeting lasted for 90 minutes. Several Garfield Park police were in attendance along with other Chicago Police Department brass.
“I thought it was nice that (McCarthy) wants us to have a voice and he wants to hear what we think will lessen all the bad things on the streets,” said Von Steuben sophomore Rafael Cruz.
Curry, who runs Breakthrough Urban Ministries where the meeting was held, considered the meeting a success
“I was pleased with how the kids from the different high schools communicated about what an officer has to do to earn their trust,” said Curry. “What type of physical behavior, what type tone of voice, those sort of things.”
The alliance between the group and the CPD is just getting started. McCarthy said he plans to send officers to the early morning cross-training program the group is starting this summer.
There have been dozens of highly-publicized clashes between police and citizens throughout the country this year. Tensions are high. In most Chicago neighborhoods the high school basketball coach is an incredibly well-known, respected force. Monday night a small group of them began making concrete, tangible plans to improve things in their neighborhoods. It was a solid step in the right direction.
“Honestly I was kind of scared of police offers before the meeting,” said Cruz. “I tried to avoid them most of the time. Now I can see that they are easy to approach people, they are real people. They are not just people with guns and badges, you can relate to them and have a conversation with them.”