Yesterday evening Chicagoans filled the Kennedy King College Auditorium to voice their input on the upcoming appointment of the new Superintendent of the Chicago Police. They were invited by the Chicago Urban League to take part in their Community Input Forum. The evening was moderated by Dometi Pongo of WVON 1690AM. The event was created to bring the Chicago Police Board together with concerned citizens in the wake previous Superintendent McCarthy’s forced resignation, the superintendent appointment, and mounting troubles facing the disconnect between Chicago police officers and the public.
During the first of its kind Community Input Forum between the Chicago Police Board and private citizens many attendees waited patiently behind two microphones to share their experiences with the police and offer suggestions to the Board. Early into the public speaking portion of the event the question and answer format suggested by Mr. Pongo fell to the wayside and speakers took their own queues. A portion of the speakers simply wanted to share their stories of loss and suffering while asking why tragedy has become so commonplace in their neighborhoods. Others stood behind clipboards and listed structured requests that varied from reforming the Board to completely restructuring the Superintendent selection process. Questions were raised regarding the lack of time between the Input Forum and Friday’s closing of the application process. Despite a request to extend the application process the Board said that no such extension would be made. Many people called for the resignation of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez. Neither were in the building.
After the Input Forum closed for the evening Lori Lightfoot, President of the Chicago Police Board, spent a few minutes with the press to discuss the evenings questions. She directly addressed the call for an elected Police Board as a change to the currently appointed board, “We do not want to turn what is a quasi judicial body, deciding issues of police discipline, into a plebiscite (direct public vote) process.” She drew similarities to issues that public officials face, “Think about what would happen if members of the Police Board are running from districts trying to curry favor from certain constituencies. I think, frankly, that would turn the whole process on its head.”
When asked about her immediate reaction to the reforms posed by the crowd, Lightfoot believed that the continual outcry for community engagement is at the forefront of the search for the next Superintendent. She summarized her stance by saying, “This is a place that created community policing and clearly what we have to do is get back to those core principles where people feel like they understand, they know who the officers are from the commander on down. There’s a disconnect now and we have to bridge that gap.”
A Chicago Urban League representative also spoke with the press after the forum. When asked about the lack of answers from the Chicago Police Board during the forum she responded, “I think what we asked of them and what they did was to do some active listening and I don’t think that they all needed to speak, but they all heard. It’s tough not to hear when you have some very agitated and angry audience people and saying the things that they said. I think they have to listen to them.” The Chicago Urban League is part of the public realm, but the Chicago Police Board predominantly operates behind closed doors. When asked about what the Urban League can take away from the Community Input Forum she answered, “I think we just need to keep having them. I think there are a lot of different boards and a lot of different people that we need to hear from.”
Applications for the Superintendent of Chicago Police can be submitted until this Friday at 5pm. The next public Chicago Police Board meeting will be helped on Thursday, January 21, 2016 at the Chicago Public Safety Headquarters, 3510 South Michigan Avenue.