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Chicago police open online forum for community conversations

Residents can register online to participate in Zoom discussions with their district’s commanders and officers about topics such as community policing strategies or use of force.

An 18-year-old man has been charged with the fatal shooting of a University of Chicago graduate in Hyde Park.
A Chicago police badge hangs in front of the City of Chicago Public Safety Headquarters. Chicago police are encouraging residents to participate in their revamped Community Conversations program.
Sun-Times file

The Chicago Police Department has revamped its Community Conversations program as activists and community organizations continue to call for more transparency and accountability from CPD.

Now residents can register online to participate in discussions with their district’s commanders and officers over Zoom. The department hopes the conversations allow residents to provide input on topics including community engagement, crime prevention and various public safety strategies.

Changes in the three-year-old program were made due to coronavirus-related concerns, but Community Policing Cmdr. Angel Novalez says he hopes the new version also encourages greater participation.

“Community perspective is extremely important in guiding us to better partner with the community,” he said at a Wednesday morning press conference. “We can’t successfully police without understanding what the people in the community need. We have to hear it directly from them. We need to have that input from the community.”

Novalez, promoted to his current post two weeks after summer protests against police brutality began, intends to use “every bit of input” from the conversations to help craft the department’s 2021 strategic plans. Since registration opened, he said, interest from the community has ticked upward; he figures it’s because virtual meetings are more accessible.

Talking points include: community policing strategies; use of force; crisis intervention; response to hate crimes; use of body-worn cameras; sexual misconduct by officers; and school resource officers.

Patricia Carrillo, president of the 1000 and 1100 North Monticello Block Club, has participated in two pre-pandemic community conversations and tries to serve as a liaison between her community and 11th District officers. She believes to address inequalities in her West Side neighborhood, residents must be willing to come to the table local police.

“I’ve experienced a lot of hard things in my community,” she said. “But I think by working with CPD, we can make our neighborhoods safer. In order to see change, we all need to speak up and have our voices heard.”

Residents can register on the Chicago police website for a conversation with an officer from their CPD district. The first conversation is Thursday with the 5th District, with others planned through October. Disability and language accommodations are available on request. CPD also is seeking public comment on its proposal to revise its use-of-force policy.