Beale gets his ‘cop house’ over Lightfoot’s objections

The mayor had cited funding, officer security and other concerns in opposing the project. But the Committee on Public Safety OK’d the $250,000 crime-fighting experiment anyway — and congratulated Beale for his creativity.

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Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) speaks Wednesday about the efforts to bring Amazon to the Pullman community. Beale and Mayor Lori Lightfoot (seated, background) attended the ceremonial opening of Chicago’s first Amazon Delivery Station, 10500 S. Woodlawn Ave in Pullman.

Ald. Anthony Beale, shown speaking at the opening of an Amazon facility in his ward, has been among the harshest City Council critics of Mayor Lori Lightfoot (right).

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Defying Mayor Lori Lightfoot, a City Council committee on Tuesday gave Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) the go-ahead to turn a home on a crime-plagued block in Roseland into a privately-funded mecca for community policing.

In a letter to Beale last week, the mayor had said she “cannot support” and, therefore, would be “encouraging members to table this discussion” because of concerns about funding, officer security and because the idea runs contrary to the Chicago Police Department’s underlying “community policing strategy.”

But that didn’t stop the Committee on Public Safety from authorizing the $250,000 crime-fighting experiment and congratulating Beale for his creativity.

“You kept trying and you stuck with it,” Ald. Nick Sposato (38th) said of Beale’s two-year quest.

“I don’t know why we won’t use public funds to pay for it. I tell you, I’m willing to use my menu money if you put one of those in my ward right now. … We need one on every corner,” said Ald. Walter Burnett (27th).

“Fantastic thinking out of the box. … It’s worth a try. We need to try any and everything we can to make the police feel safe but also helping to build that relationship with the police in our community.” 

Ald. Ray Lopez (15th) bemoaned the fact that “politics and pettiness nearly derailed this effort to save lives in Roseland.”

Like Lopez, Beale is one of Lightfoot’s most outspoken City Council critics. He has accused the mayor of stalling his pet idea for 18 months because of their political feud that dates back to his outspoken opposition to the mayor’s choice of Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) as Finance Committee chairman.

“That is shameful. That is a disgrace to our city. … It should not take an order from the City Council to get police and aldermen to work together to protect people,” Lopez said.

Public Safety Committee Chairman Chris Taliaferro (29th) added, “If this can prevent one shooting, one death, I would consider it a success. If this is successful, we all will be successful.”

The substitute order authorizes the cop house in the Calumet District provided that: a corporate sponsor can be identified for a two-year pilot; that funding source is “acceptable” to the budget director and police superintendent; an ordinance is passed “appropriating and ensuring the continuity of funds.”

Lightfoot’s office said after the vote that she was OK with the substitute order.

Beale assured his colleagues he would have no problem meeting those conditions. A “private funder” he promised to identify after the final City Council vote has made a $250,000 commitment to purchase and renovate the cop house, the alderman said.

The aldermen further claimed to have secured a commitment from Ford Motor Co. to provide a car for the cop house that would be easily identifiable and look different than the average squad car.

“We’re dealing with carjackings all over the place. We know we’re dealing with murders all over the place. This is an opportunity to build a cop house in the heart of a problem area to start building confidence and relationships back between the police and the citizens,” Beale said.

“Each room can have its own feel. It can be a reading room. It can be an arcade room. It can be a computer room. It can be a tutoring room to have the communities start going in and interacting with the police department. That builds trust from the ground up.”

Beale said the five cop houses in Racine, Wisconsin have helped to drive a 70% reduction in violent crime. Although Racine is “not comparable” to Chicago, “We can craft our own plan and have the same results they have,” he said.

“The block that we’re looking at — we will bring all the city wrap-around services along with it. The Department of Housing. The Department of Buildings. We can start rehabbing, maybe doing some in-fill housing. And we take that block back from the ground up,” Beale said.

“The beauty of this particular program is, once the problems go away, you can sell that house to a low-income resident who will now get a freshly-rehabbed, renovated piece of property at a very low price. And then, you can take the proceeds from that sale, move the cop house to another area and do the same thing all over again. Because we all know problems move from block to block. We can move the cop house just the same.”

Andrea Reed, executive director of the Greater Roseland Chamber of Commerce, has high hopes for Beale’s experiment in community policing.

“The cop house in Roseland will help us to clear our streets of the open market’s blatant activities that continue to hinder economic growth and improve the quality of life in the community that is desperately in need of revitalization,” she said.

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