It’s time to stop listening and start hearing

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy constantly tell anyone who will listen that the community needs to become more involved if crime and gun violence is going to stop.

The superintendent has just completed a “listening tour;” apparently “listening” does not mean “hearing.”

If the mayor and superintendent truly want community involvement, they should make it clear to the district commanders and CAPS sergeants what “listening” to the community means.

All of the police districts are divided into beats. Beat 2532, in the 25th District, had a commander, CAPS sergeant, beat officers and two beat facilitators who were engaged and effective.

But McCarthy’s two-year limit ensured that Commander Kevin Navarro, who worked well with the community, was replaced. The CAPS sergeant and officers were moved to different positions in the department, and a new sergeant and officers were assigned.

Leroy Duncan, one of the beat facilitators, ran for the 37th Ward seat (opposing incumbent Ald. Emma Mitts, who won reelection) and was asked to step down. He was told that if he did not win, he would be reinstated.

After the election, CAPS Sgt. Fico told Duncan the residents of the community would need to vote to reinstate him. There was a near unanimous vote for his reinstatement. All of the residents of the community who voted for Leroy thought they would once again have a leader they trusted to work with the police officers on their behalf.

However, Leroy was informed he would need to fill out another application and be interviewed by new Commander Maria Pena.

Leroy was later informed that, according to the “beat facilitator bylaws”, there is a two-year limit for service (he had served for five years) and he would be replaced by another applicant.

At the June 23rd beat meeting, residents were told the new beat facilitator did not need to be voted in by the residents of the community, because the commander has the right to choose the person he/she wants to have in the position.

The residents of the community would like to have the following questions answered:

(1) If there is a two-year term limit, why are there people who have been beat facilitators for 10 to 20 years?

(2) If the police are supposed to be “listening” to the community, why was Leroy replaced after a near-unanimous vote?

(3) Residents also are wondering if there was outside influence that caused Commander Pena to make a decision that is not in line with what they want?

When Leroy and I started attending beat meetings six years ago, all we heard was anger from the residents and “we can’t do that” from the officers.

All of that changed after Leroy made sure that the residents were informed (e.g., meeting minutes; city ordinances; follow up with police officers regarding community problems).

The meetings were no longer combative and the residents were willing to share information with officers. The police stopped telling us what they could not do and instead said they would work on the problem.

Violating the community’s trust in this way ensures the gap between residents and police with continue to grow. It’s time to stop “listening” and start “hearing.”

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