November 11, 2014

Committee to examine UCPD policies

The newly formed Citizens Action Committee for Fair University of Chicago Policing held its second meeting to discuss strategies for action on Monday evening at Valois Restaurant. Sanctioned by Alderman Leslie Hairston, the committee formed after a community hearing two weeks ago.

Though the committee is still accepting members, it is so far composed of approximately a dozen Hyde Park citizens, including members of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference (HPKCC), UChicago students from the Coalition for Equitable Policing (CEP) and other neighborhood residents. The proposal for a committee to deal with issues related to the University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD) was suggested at a public forum on October 29 in which South Side residents voiced their experiences and concerns with the UCPD.

Alderman Leslie Hairston, who was not at the meeting, delegated responsibility for forming the committee to Jamie Kalven of the Invisible Institute, a Chicago-based production company that seeks to increase the visibility of controversial issues. Kalven put together the committee and was present at the meeting yesterday.

According to a statement signed by the committee members, “[The] broad issues of transparency and accountability [play] through various specific concerns raised by participants in the forum; among them, alleged racial profiling of black youth, gratuitous traffic stops, mishandling of sexual assault cases, and uncivil behavior towards neighborhood residents.”

At the meeting committee members discussed their plans for implementing changes, which included a period of research and development to come up with recommendations to improve the accountability and transparency of the UCPD. The intention is to eventually submit the recommendations to Hairston and the University. This submission would be followed by a petition to gauge community support for these recommendations.

Much of the discussion focused on how to shape public opinion in favor of the committee’s recommendations.

“We need to be concerned with winning the broader public opinion around to our argument in Hyde Park, if we want to put the University under pressure,” President of HPKCC George Rumsey said. “Every time this issue comes up, there’s this whole subset of people who argue that without this University the neighborhood and Hyde Park would fall into the lake.”

The list of recommendations, though not yet completed, will address both legal issues (what the UCPD is forbidden by law from doing) and policy issues (what the University can do to help the community that is not required by law).

Most committee members felt that the recent employment of a new administrator to oversee the UCPD is inadequate. “Whoever they have, I’m not giving my rights up to the University,” said Leroy O’Shield, former Chicago Police Department officer and member of the Citizens Action Council.