A coalition of community organizers are asking residents to help protect their own neighborhoods on Labor Day in response to the police union’s call for officers to refuse overtime work during the historically deadly weekend.
They’re encouraging individuals and groups to ramp up safety measures and criticized a directive from the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police urging its members to protest the “disrespect” and “killing of officers” by not volunteering to work overtime.
The effort, called the Community Peace Surge, is aimed at 10 high-crime areas on Chicago’s South Side and West Side. In those areas, organizers will organize a variety of activities — picnics, educational activities, cleanup events — to offer plenty of non-violent options.
“What the police won’t do on Labor Day weekend … we’ll do ourselves,” Keith Harris, a representative of the People Educated Against Crime community center in Englewood, said at gathering outside the Chicago Police Department headquarters earlier this week.
“We’re calling on the men in the city of Chicago to stand up and do what men do, and that’s protect and provide,” Harris said. “You live on these blocks, protect your block. Protect your community and protect your neighborhood. Protect your family.”
The Community Peace Surge is “actively recruiting” people with concealed-carry licenses and FOID cards, Harris said.
“If nothing else, you can stand in your yard,” he said. “It’s lawful for you to stand on your property and protect your property and patrol your property.”
Dean Angelo, president of the FOP, said a community-wide initiative to protect neighborhoods is “a good focus to maintain” but there’s no need to stand guard in your yard with a weapon, which he called extreme.
“[The CPD will] ensure the problem spots are manned. No neighborhoods are going to go understaffed,” he said. “Everybody who’s assigned to work that day will be at work. . . . Those voluntary positions that are not manned will be filled more than likely by the department canceling someone’s day off.”
The FOP’s directive, communicated to officers through a flier, is an attempt to “de-stress” officers because they are exposed to “nonstop violence, strain and strife” on a daily basis, Angelo said.
“Everyone takes [police officers] for granted,” Angelo said. “No one talks about support for them. Then they come back to work on that heightened roller-coaster ride every single day.”
Phillip Jackson, executive director of The Black Star Project, said The Community Peace Surge isn’t trying to do the police department’s job, but simply ramping up the work that groups already do with young people and street organizations.
“We’re not the police. That’s not what we’re asking,” said Jackson, whose nonprofit provides educational services in black communities. “We have police, but they need to work with the community and they absolutely have got to do a different job of policing.”
Other organizations involved in the community initiative for Labor Day weekend include the Black United Fund of Illinois, Campaign Against Filth and Fear, Chicago Justice Or Else and Resident Association of Greater Englewood.
“I would hope that the FOP would get behind us and support this,” Jackson said.
The FOP’s Angelo said it’s good that communities are looking out for each other as a result of the directive, and that organizations can work with the police to gain control over the violence.
“They’ve got to approach the department on open lines of communication and stay in the mode that they’re in right now,” Angelo said.
Last year, the CPD spent more than $116 million on overtime pay.
There were 54 people shot and eight killed in Chicago on Labor Day weekend last year, up from 40 shot and four killed the same weekend in 2014.
“The signal that the FOP sent with that flier and with those remarks are reverberating through communities across Chicago,” Jackson said. “The intention, the spirit of those words were, ‘Until you respect us, we are not going to serve you,’ and that is what we are rejecting.”
Contributing: Fran Spielman