Top cop: Bad training bothers me the most

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Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson, right, and Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30th) at the first meeting of the
Community Policing Advisory Panel. | Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times

Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said Tuesday that of all the Chicago Police Department’s failings highlighted in the Department of Justice report released last week, it’s that his officers are not receiving adequate training that pains him most.

“We owe it to our police officers to give them the best training possible because that makes them better when we go out on the street,” said Johnson, a 28-year police department veteran. “And to think that we failed them is a difficult pill to swallow. It really is.”

“We ask them to do a very difficult job under difficult circumstances, and moving forward I think it’s just imperative that, and that’s not even the right word,” Johnson said, pausing a moment to collect his thoughts. “I have an obligation to these officers to ensure that they get the best training possible because I want them to be confident — when they hit the street sometimes they have to make life-and-death decisions — I want them to be confident that they know the correct way to make those decisions.”

Asked about making timely reforms to police officer training in light of the city’s plan to hire 1,000 new officers in the coming months, Johnson said the process should not be rushed.

“I don’t think the focus should be made on making reforms quick enough. I think what we should focus on is making reforms the right way,” he said.

“We don’t want to have to go back and do it again. . . . Can we juggle these multiple balls? We’re going to have to. We don’t have any choice. We have to make these reforms as well as reduce the violence in this city. We owe it to the city, we owe it to the citizens and we we owe it to these police officers.”

Johnson spoke to reporters before holding the first meeting of the Community Policing Advisory Panel, a group of law enforcement officers, academics and community leaders tasked with developing a new strategic plan for community policing.

The closed-door meeting was held at Chicago Police headquarters, 3510 S. Michigan Ave.

U.S Attorney General Loretta Lynch last week called officer training “severely deficient” and noted that the lack of proper training has contributed to a pattern of excessive force.

It’s not known yet if that scathing report will evolve into a more robust consent decree filed in federal court. The goal of the Justice Department is to help the city and federal government find ways to work together to improve public trust in the police department.

RELATED ARTICLES • Report includes anecdotes of deadly force, ‘dangerous practices’ • Feds say sworn-affidavit rule undercuts CPD misconduct probes • Victims of police misconduct skeptical of Justice report’s impact • Feds say Chicago Police stuck in last millennium • DOJ report doesn’t surprise Black Lives Matter activists • Emanuel agrees to negotiate consent decree that may never happen • White House react to DOJ Chicago cops probe: Can restore ‘trust’ • Justice Dept. finds widespread Constitutional abuses by police • Brown: Federal report more important than next election • Mitchell: No surprises in DOJ report, just ugly truths • Editorial: Chicago’s shame is Chicago’s opportunity for police

Johnson and Mayor Rahm Emanuel have said they are taking a proactive approach and are not going to wait for orders from the federal government to make necessary fixes.

One priority is tweaking the department’s community policing strategy, which revolves around the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy program.

Johnson said Tuesday he wanted to “restore the CAPS philosophy to back where it used to be.”

“In the ’90s, we were the leader in community policing throughout the country, and we’ve kind of lost some of that luster,” Johnson said.

“But we fully intend on returning it back to the No. 1 position, and at the end of this whole reform period that we’re going to undergo in CPD our goal is to make CPD the model law enforcement agency across the country.”

The goal of the CAPS program was to open a the dialogue between police and community.

The panel’s official recommendations will be presented by late March, according to police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.

Changes are already afoot, Guglielmi said, pointing to a new police training tactic drawn from New York City that immerses cadets for one week in the communities they will serve to meet neighborhood residents before they begin patrolling the community.

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