For two decades, community policing, or CAPS, has been the backbone of Chicago’s law enforcement strategy. But in its present incarnation, Mayor Rahm Emanuel declared Tuesday that CAPS had become little more than a bloated bureaucracy.
"You cannot have a successful community policing strategy, if you do not engage the community," Emanuel said, announcing that he is shifting the resources of the current CAPS program to individual districts, with each commander responsible for tailoring the program to his or her neighborhood.
"They will be held accountable for achieving results of their community policing outreach," the mayor said. "For too long, community policing became a bureaucracy downtown."
Emanuel and his police superintendent Garry McCarthy were under increasing pressure to do something after Chicago rang out 2012 with 506 murders, enjoying an unenviable reputation nationwide as a dangerous city. McCarthy says the city’s murders are already turning around, but said he wanted to increase what he called “police legitimacy” by making community residents greater stakeholders in their neighborhoods.
"There’s very clear evidence that when policing is viewed as legitimate by the community, there’s a better sense of compliance," McCarthy said. "One of the things we have to do is stop people which can be a confrontation. But we stop the wrong people all the time because we don’t know the community, then what we get is, 'Why are you stopping my son?'"
Under the new initiative, each police district will be assigned a CAPS sergeant and two police officers, as well as a community organizer and a youth services provider. Four citywide coordinators will oversee community policing programs targeted at victim assistance, seniors, youth, and victims of domestic violence.
Emanuel conceded that he is not providing more funds for CAPS. The program was cut significantly in the waning years of the Daley Administration.
"We have the same budget, but it’s applied differently," Emanuel said. "You can have the same 50 people, but if they’re in the downtown headquarters, they’re not doing community policing."