The Network 49 Safe Communities Task Force takes a holistic view towards what makes our community safe. Safety to go about one’s business freely. Safety from illegal harassment over one’s race or ethnic identity. Safety to enforce the city’s laws without infringing on someone’s rights, or being subject to unnecessary risks or hostility, simply because of the job you do. Safety is something that means different things to different people, so our work is grounded in dialogue, discussion, and deliberate action.
In 2016, our city was rocked by the release of the Department of Justice report on conditions at the Chicago Police Department. The report documented decades of poor training and lax management that contributed to outrageous incidents like the shooting to death of Laquan McDonald, but also thousands of less notorious incidents that have undermined police and community relations. In 2017, we organized a teach-in with civil rights attorney Sheila Bedi and subsequently joined as co-plaintiffs in a lawsuit demanding the community be at the table during negotiations over how to implement reforms. We also initiated a dialogue in our community with the police. We recognize they have a tough job to do and to do it right, they need to hear from us and vice versa.
Members of our Safe Communities Task Force are also paying attention to other issues in Rogers Park and citywide: the scourge of domestic violence; problems with prostitution, gang activity, and drug dealing; harassment of minority youth; unfair harassment of immigrants and refugees; expungment and bail bond issues; and declining confidence in the city’s CAPS strategy. To the best of our ability, we are doing what we can to engage these issues, while focusing on three main priorities:
- Reform of the Chicago Police Department and implementation of recommendations from the community and DOJ;
- Creating a community-centered public safety strategy, which is not limited just to policing;
- Creating an ongoing conversation between community stakeholders about what makes for a safe community for all.