More than 160 community residents packed the auditorium at Catholic Charities’ Sisters of St. Casimir Motherhouse on Tuesday, November 15th to talk about an important issue to the Chicago Southwest community; police accountability. Led by Imelda Salazar and Rafi Peterson, the group heard testimony, reviewed facts, and met with neighbors one on one to learn about each other. Most important, the large gathering broke into small groups to develop ideas for improving both police accountability and community/police relations.
The collection of people who spent an hour and a half working through suggestions for improved policing of the community, really represented the broad diversity of the Chicago Southwest community. The attendees were African-American, Latino, and white. They were Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, and Jewish. They were young and old. They spoke English and Spanish. While these differences could have pulled them apart, especially around a topic as contentious as police accountability, they were united in their belief that the City can do more to ensure police accountability and community responsibility.
Though each small group worked independently, starting only with the same questions, they each came up with very similar answers on how to improve police accountability and relationships with the community. These included: the need for more police officers to represent the community; less police in the community, especially in schools; better training for officers on interacting with community members; more mental health services for officers and residents; and, more opportunities for police to have positive interactions with community members.
This meeting was part of a larger, city-wide effort to give community members a real voice in the police accountability discussion. SWOP is part of the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability (GAPA). Supported by the Woods Fund of Chicago, with funding from major foundations across Chicago, GAPA is a collection of 11 community-based organizations working in 38 of the City’s 50 wards. Each group is convening a meeting similar to the one SWOP has held. The recommendations from these meetings will be collected into one large document and will be used by the groups to organize for better police accountability.
For more information on the police accountability work, please contact Jeff Bartow at firstname.lastname@example.org.