November 4, 2008

Hyde Park airs concern over UCPD’s working relationship with community

Community members aired their grievances about the University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD) in a forum hosted by the South Side Solidarity Network in Stuart Hall (SSSN) last Thursday.

“The relationship between the University and the community has a lot of room for improvement,” said third-year Stephanie Zwiebel, of SSSN, listing territory encroachment and what she perceived as a lack of University “subtlety” and communal focus in its dealings with the community.

At the event, which included students, locals, and a panel of UCPD officials, not everyone agreed with Zwiebal’s negative assessment.

“As far as I’m concerned, the relationship is pretty good,” said UCPD executive director Rudolph Nimocks, noting that whenever the community has voted about whether they want continued services from the UCPD, they have always voted in overwhelming favor of it.

At the meeting, one community member suggested extending the UCPD service further north, citing local gang and drug activity. Nimocks told him to lobby his elected officials.

But not all the UCPD reviews are so glowing.

“Some people feel like they’re being pushed out of the community, and I have a problem with that. We want a mixed community. We’re fighting against gentrification of the community,” said Lonnie Richardson, the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy beat facilitator in Woodlawn.

He added that many locals feel the UCPD treat the youth from his community differently than students who commit the same crimes.

Another community member accused the UCPD of outright racism.

“My kids are of color and they have contact cards, but I’m white and I don’t,” she said, adding that her children get stopped by police far more frequently than she does.

Nimocks was not convinced of this charge.

“If our police officers stop someone, it’s because of their conduct,” he said.