CAPS Cops Back to the Beat?

Changes to CAPS program intended to increase efficiency

By Alex Perez
|  Wednesday, Sep 15, 2010  |  Updated 11:15 PM CDT
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CAPS Cops Back to the Beat?

WMAQ

Exchanging uniformed police officers with civilian volunteers is one of several changes that could be coming to Chicago's alternative policing strategy.

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Exchanging uniformed police officers with civilian volunteers is one of several changes that could be coming to Chicago's alternative policing strategy.

For more than 17 years, CAPS has been credited with helping empower residents and building better police/neighborhood relationships while helping to lower crime numbers.

The looming changes, according to a letter signed by CAPS Director Ron Holt, are intended to increase efficiency.

"In the near future we will be making some changes that I believe will increase efficiency, ensure that the original goals and objectives of CAPS -- which are still sound -- are met, and eliminate duplication of efforts," Holt wrote to district committee chairmen.

The changes could mean that several violence-prevention programs are in jeopardy.

Tio Hardiman, with the anti-violence group CeaseFire, said the changes are a gamble.

"Well it may really, really hurt the city more than help the city," he said. "You just can't lock everybody up either. And that's one thing about CAPS. It was about community policing."

Word of the plan comes as hundreds of rang-and-file officers picketed police headquarters, complaining about understaffing and calling for the resignation of Supt. Jody Weis. Protesters say the department is so short of street cops that public safety is endangered.

Fraternal Order of Police President Mark Donahue said the reassigned officers are needed, but said he would like to see more officers hired rather than just a realignment of the current force.

Mayor Richard Daley will be publicly addressing the CAPS changes within the next few days, sources told NBC Chicago, but some of them could be in place before the end of the month.

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