CPD 'listening tour' fuzzy on details
Cities across the country have been ripped apart by violent encounters between police and citizens.
Ferguson had Michael Brown, New York had Eric Garner, Baltimore had Freddie Gray — and Chicago had 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who was shot 16 times by a Chicago cop last October. There’s also Chicago Police Commander Glenn Evans, indicted for allegedly ramming his gun into someone’s mouth. And Detective Dante Servin, acquitted of killing 22-year-old Rekia Boyd.
That’s part of the reason why the city’s top cop, Supt. Garry McCarthy, recently announced a big, city-wide listening tour. It’s a major initiative for the police department to communicate with the public.
“There’s a big anti-police sentiment both locally and nationally. And we’re dealing with protests on a daily basis,” McCarthy said in the Spring.
After Detective Servin was found not guilty by a judge in April, anger in Chicago reached a high point. And that’s when McCarthy came out with a plan to repair the relationship between cops and residents: He called it the “CPD Neighborhood Outreach Tour.”
The idea was the department would open up a big public dialogue. McCarthy and police commanders would personally meet with people and really listen.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel threw his support behind the initiative.
“The listening tour, not just by Superintendent McCarthy, it’s also by each of the commanders in the districts, is all a part of effort of building trust and relationships that are essential part of community policing,” Emanuel said.
There were no details about when the tour was starting, no big announcement about how anybody from the neighborhoods could take part. But then, all of a sudden at a Chicago City Club event in May, McCarthy said the listening tour was already underway — and that it was a big hit.
“I’m going out every single day to community meetings, sitting down with small groups of residents without the press, and we have conversations and we listen to people,” McCarthy told a room full of business and civic leaders.
But even after McCarthy gave his speech at the City Club, there was still no way to find out where and when the events of this big, public listening tour were happening.
WBEZ has been trying to find out more about this outreach tour ever since it was first announced: We’ve called, we’ve emailed about half a dozen times and we’ve asked in person. The main question is — where are these events listed for the public?
The tour is supposed to be a chance to hear from the public — to get ‘resident feedback’ and to ‘foster ongoing dialogue.’ But if people don’t know about it, why do it?
Residents aren’t the only ones struggling to get this information. People you’d presume would absolutely know don’t either.
“Seems like it’s some kind of secret mission,” said Ald. Pat Dowell, who represents the 3rd Ward on Chicago’s South Side.
She said she would love to advertise the listening tour to her constituents, but she’s been kept in the dark.
“I don’t know anything about how they’re organized, what he is trying to accomplish,” Ald. Dowell lamented.
An officer in charge of community relations for her district said she didn’t know when the meetings were happening in her district. In fact, she already missed the one in her own district — she only found out about it from a resident — afterwards.
Dowell’s fellow South Side alderman, Roderick Sawyer (6), said he got a list of the listening tour stops after he specifically asked the police. But he said he doesn’t think most people have any way of finding out about the events.
Ald. Sawyer said he suspects the police want to handpick their audience, which he said defeats the whole purpose.
Thursday, June 11
Garfield Hospital, 520 N. Ridgeway
Wednesday, June 17
Chicago Urban League, 4510 S. Michigan
Wednesday, June 24
Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation, 2550 W. North
Thursday, Jul 2
People's Church of the Harvest, 3570 W. Fifth Avenue
Tuesday, July 7
Lawndale Christian Development Corporation,
2111 S. Hamlin Ave (Firehouse Community Arts Center) Ogden and Hamlin
Thursday, July 9
KLEO Community Family Life Center, 119 E. Garfield Blvd.
Monday, July 13
Chicago Embassy Church, 5848 S. Princeton
Wednesday, July 15
Mars Hill Baptist Church, 5916 W. Lake St
Monday, July 20
Temple of Glory Church 311 E. 95th St.
Patrick Smith is a WBEZ producer and reporter. Follow him @pksmid.