Incoming top cop Snelling is right: ‘We can’t do this unless we do it together’

Chicagoans and the CPD must take a step forward and start working together to change the city for the better.

SHARE Incoming top cop Snelling is right: ‘We can’t do this unless we do it together’
Oswaldo Gomez, left, vice president with the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability, shakes incoming Chicago Police Supt. Larry Snelling, before a CCPSA Town Hall at the Mexican Fine Arts Museum in Pilsen, Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023. | Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Oswaldo Gomez, left, vice president with the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability, shakes the hand of Larry Snelling, the mayor’s pick for police superintendent, at the Mexican Fine Arts Museum in Pilsen, Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Mayor Brandon Johnson’s pick for Chicago police superintendent stressed last week that without synergy and trust between officers and the community, the city won’t accomplish its goal of curbing crime.

“I can’t help you if I don’t listen to you,” Larry Snelling told residents in Pilsen Thursday at his first public forum, organized by the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability.

Likewise, officers patrolling the streets and the residents they see every day have to get to know one another, Snelling emphasized.

Those are sentiments Chicago needs to hear, as Snelling heads to his expected City Council approval to lead the Chicago Police Department. Everyone — including top CPD leaders, rank-and-file officers and everyone who lives in the city’s 77 neighborhoods — has to keep Snelling’s words in mind.

We are all in this together.

Editorial

Editorial

Many Chicagoans, especially Black and Brown residents, will not forget — and should not forget — the decades of police misconduct in this city, whether the deadly shootings of unarmed civilians, the Jon Burge era of police torture or the type of lesser complaints that result in officer suspensions.

Likewise, the men and women in uniform will not, and should not, forget the memories of their brothers and sisters who were killed in the line of duty.

Police and civilians will both have at least one eye on the rearview mirror. But both sides also have to be willing to take a step forward and look ahead if Chicago is to change for the better.

Snelling should, of course, be subject to hard questions and critiques, especially regarding how he plans to jumpstart the department’s compliance with the federal policing reform consent decree.

Snelling also said he wants to hold officers accountable. That could start with the case of Chicago Police Officer Joseph DeRosa, who remains on the job five years after he pleaded guilty to a felony for resisting and obstructing police at a Michigan casino. The Police Board, which decides disciplinary matters, has yet to schedule an evidentiary hearing on DeRosa’s case.

We’re hopeful the CPD will begin a real transformation under Snelling, starting with a productive dialog that rebuilds community confidence.

It won’t happen overnight. But if residents and officers lower their guards and give themselves a chance to stop viewing each other as the enemy, maybe Chicago will finally be headed down the right track — and everyone will be safer.

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