Taking a page from Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s 2010 campaign playbook, Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy and his top brass are going on a “listening tour.”
McCarthy is trying to mend the strained relationship between the department and minority communities.
The recent acquittal of Detective Dante Servin on involuntary manslaughter charges in the fatal shooting of Rekia Boyd in 2012 was the latest controversy to stoke animosity toward the police in African-American neighborhoods. Questionable police actions in other cities — from Ferguson, Missouri, to Staten Island, New York, to Baltimore — haven’t helped here, either.
McCarthy will meet with residents and community leaders to “hear about the issues that matter most to them, address public safety and continue to build trust between the police department and the communities they serve,” the department said in a prepared statement.
Residents, clergy and other community leaders in each of the city’s 22 police districts will attend. Dates and locations of the forums will be released in coming weeks.
First Deputy Al Wysinger, Deputy Chief of Community Policing Eric Washington and other police leaders and rank-and-file officers will participate in the tour. Washington’s position was created in February.
“This initiative will help strengthen the relationship between the department and residents we serve as well as build trust, which is crucial to our efforts in lowering crime and ensuring everyone enjoys the same level of safety,” McCarthy said.
Rank-and-file cops also will have the chance to voice their concerns to McCarthy.
At the end of the tour, McCarthy will submit a report to the mayor with recommendations on improving the relationship between residents and cops.
McCarthy said the listening tour follows other efforts to boost community policing in Chicago, including mandatory “procedural justice” training for officers in showing fairness and respect to citizens. He also pointed to the department’s new pilot program, in which officers wear body cameras, as an example of trying to build trust with residents.
Ald. Howard Brookins Jr. (21st), who chairs the City Council’s Black Caucus, embraced the concept of a listening tour.
“I think it’s a great idea, the timing aside,” he said, referring to last week’s Servin ruling. “It can’t be seen as an election ploy because the election is over. We have to restore the trust of the community.”
“It will be good for Al [Wysinger] and McCarthy to hear from people and see what they can do about their concerns,” Brookins said. “Part of the problem why crimes go unsolved is that people refuse to cooperate with the police.”
Such listening tours have been used as a high-profile political tool in Chicago in recent years. Emanuel conducted a listening tour of the city’s neighborhoods in 2010 before he was elected mayor in early 2011. Karen Lewis, the Chicago Teachers Union president, went on her own listening tour last year before opting not to run for mayor because of an illness.
On the national stage, Hillary Clinton is on a listening tour in her presidential campaign.
Cleveland, Ohio, and Stockton, California, are among other cities to launch listening tours about police issues. Earlier this year, Cleveland’s City Council members reportedly heard about 15 hours of testimony about the use of police force — following a Justice Department investigation that found a pattern of officers using excessive force there.