Panel Begins Drawing Up Community-Policing Strategy | WBEZ
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Panel Begins Drawing Up Community-Policing Strategy

A 12-member panel of local and national experts is starting to work toward a new community-policing strategy for Chicago.

“Our goal is to make CPD the model law-enforcement agency across the country,” police Supt. Eddie Johnson said Tuesday at the start of the panel’s first meeting, a closed-door session at CPD headquarters.

“In the ’90s, we were the leader in community policing throughout the country and we kind of lost some of that luster,” said Johnson, who announced the panel in October.

The cornerstone of Chicago’s community-policing program, known as the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy, consisted of monthly meetings to bring residents and cops together in each of the city’s 280 police beats.

Attendance at those CAPS meetings peaked in 2002, when more than 70,000 residents attended. By 2010, fewer than 50,000 people were showing up. Four years later, the attendance had plummeted to 20,500. The department, meanwhile, cut resources for the meetings.

As the CAPS beat meetings dwindled, an increasing number of videos showed officer misconduct ranging from late-night beatings to shootings at moving cars.

The department’s community relations reached a low point in 2015, when the city complied with a judge’s order to release footage of a white officer fatally shooting black teen Laquan McDonald.

Over the past year, relations between cops and community members have remained strained amid a surge in gun violence.

On Friday, a U.S. Justice Department report that was prompted by the McDonald shooting said the department’s use of force routinely violates constitutional rights. Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration vowed to enter a court-enforced pact with federal officials to overhaul department practices and training.

Johnson said a new community-policing strategy, meanwhile, will help rebuild community relations.

“The police department is only as strong as the faith that the community has in it,” Johnson said.

The panelists include Wesley G. Skogan, a Northwestern University political scientist who has studied the CAPS program; Tracey L. Meares, a Yale University law professor who served on President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing; and former Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter.

The panel’s chair is Fred L. Waller, chief of the police department’s patrol bureau. A WBEZ investigation this month found Waller behind the 2012 promotion of an officer with dozens of misconduct complaints and close ties to two cops who had recently been arrested on federal corruption charges.

Recommendations from the community-policing panel are expected by April.

Chip Mitchell reports out of WBEZ’s West Side studio. Follow him @ChipMitchell1.

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