Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday rejected a proposal from one of her most outspoken City Council critics to turn a home on a crime-plagued block in Roseland into a corporate-bankrolled mecca for community policing.
Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) has accused Lightfoot of stalling his pet idea for 18 months because of their political feud, which dates back to his public opposition to the mayor’s choice of Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) as Finance Committee chairman.
But on the eve of a Public Safety Committee meeting that has Beale’s so-called “COP House” on the agenda, Lightfoot made the case that her stance has nothing to do with politics.
In a letter to Beale, Lightfoot said she “cannot support” and, therefore, would be “encouraging members to table this discussion” during Friday’s meeting because of concerns about funding, officer security and because the idea runs contrary to the Chicago Police Department’s underlying “community policing strategy.”
Although Beale’s City Council order claims that the COP House “shall be funded in whole or in part by private funding commitments and corporate sponsorships, Lightfoot said the alderman has “not provided any details about the specific costs.” Nor has he identified the corporate sponsor. The lack of transparency “[gives] me great pause,” the letter states.
“If there is a funding source(s), who is it? Is it a one-time commitment or something that will sustain the COP House in the out years once it is up and operational?” Lightfoot’s letter asks.
“On its face, your order puts the entire onus of finding the location and funding on the superintendent. Moreover, there are longstanding policies which restrict the police department’s ability to enter any contractual relationship with third parties and to receive donations of any kind. ... The potential for conflicts abounds with a vague directive to seek funding from private interests and `corporate sponsorships.’ ”
Beale’s plan to effectively set up “a district substation somewhere in the 5th District” also raises a series of questions about the safety of police officers and the general public, the mayor wrote.
“What will be the security measures in place to protect officer safety? What will be the interior design to ensure that equipment will be safeguarded? What is the plan to ensure that police communications will be properly confidential? What are the associated costs?” she wrote.
“What will be the protocols to ensure that individuals who come to the COP House are protected and, if they bring confidential information that will be safeguarded inside of that property?”
The mayor further argued that Beale’s ambitious plan runs contrary to “community policing strategies being employed by current CPD leadership” and lessons learned from the ups and downs of Chicago’s community policing program. Never mind that Racine and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, have reportedly had success with the idea.
“The best response comes when officers ‘meet the community where they are,’ meaning getting out of squad cars outside formal police buildings or other law enforcement-identified buildings and, instead getting into community spaces,” she said.
“Compelling community members to go to the police is a dated strategy that does not engender trust and fails to foster an environment in which authentic relationships can be created. … Neither I nor Supt. [David] Brown believe that this COP House approach makes sense for the moment that we are in here in Chicago.”
Beale could not be reached for comment on Lightfoot’s letter.
Last fall, he accused the mayor of sitting on the idea because of their ongoing political feud.
“I’ve been working on this for almost two years with the mayor’s office, and I can’t get anywhere. … It isn’t being approved because it’s all political, and it’s me, my idea. I think it’s personal,” he said then.
“The city doesn’t have a plan [to stop the violence] and we are here presenting an innovative idea that will cost the taxpayer no money, but no one is taking it seriously. ... The city has no other plan than throwing more overtime at the crime problem, which is just creating more problems and hasn’t worked.”