For better policing, start with empathy

If the Chicago Police Department truly cares about both its officers and the community, there’s strong evidence they should start by dealing with the department’s historic culture.

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A Chicago Police Department officer pulls a man into a bear hug to save his life when the man was almost struck by a vehicle during a street takeover August 2022, where hundreds gathered to watch cars drift in circles.

A Chicago Police Department officer pulls a man into a bear hug when the man was almost struck by a vehicle during a street takeover in August 2022, where hundreds gathered to watch cars drift in circles.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

I was fortunate enough to be invited to a presentation at the Chicago Police Academy about five years ago that addressed efforts to reform the culture of the Chicago Police Department. The presenters were longtime CPD officers who had been working with their peers over a long period with assistance from clinicians and researchers.

What sticks with me to this day is the parallel they presented between the problems police officers encountered in Chicago communities and the issues they dealt with among their peers and in their personal lives. They had found a connection between these problems and the culture of CPD.

Roughly stated, the culture revolved around three principles. First, never show emotion. Second, never trust anyone to be telling the whole story. Third, always maintain control of your situation.

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This culture was at the root of many problems, including the disconnection between CPD and the community; discord in the chain of command; and high rates of divorce, addiction and suicide among officers.

The presenters acknowledged it would take years to overcome a culture that has been reinforced for generations, especially in such an insular occupation as policing. But they could point to marginal progress that sparked hope the CPD of the future could change for the better.

That was two police chiefs ago, and I have no idea if this effort is still underway. However, if the department truly cares about both its officers and the people they are sworn to serve and protect, there’s strong evidence they should start by dealing with the historic culture of the department. Increasing empathy, actively listening for authenticity and treating others with respect might be the beginning of a healthier and more effective police force.

Rob Breymaier, Oak Park

Enough with taxing the middle class

I really appreciated David Roeder’s column earlier this month. I only hope that voters are paying attention to mayoral candidate Brandon Johnson’s proposed tax of an additional 3.5% on those making $100,000 or more.

All I can say is enough is enough. The people who would be subjected to this tax pay their fair share already. It is time for these mayoral candidates to find another revenue stream that does not include taxing the hardworking middle class.

Maybe it is time to make spending cuts and be accountable for the success of the various programs that are already being funded by taxpayer dollars. The city is failing all of us. It is time for a mayor who realizes that and will be driven to make it right regardless of ZIP code or income level.

Kristen A. Kristensen, Edison Park

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