BLACK VOICES

Chicago Police Plan To Listen After Officer Acquitted In Death Of Unarmed Woman

04/28/2015 03:08 pm ET | Updated Apr 30, 2015
Scott Olson via Getty Images

Hoping to mend the tattered relationship between the police department and Chicago's minority communities, the city's top cop announced plans Tuesday for a "neighborhood outreach" tour.

The police department will hold a series of meetings across the city to hear from residents, ministers and community leaders, Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said in a statement. The dates and locations of those meetings were not announced.

"Our officers are the backbone of our public safety efforts, but we all have a role to play in the safety of our city and these sessions will be an important vehicle for us to partner with residents, ministers and community leaders,” McCarthy said. "This initiative will help strengthen the relationship between the Department and residents we serve as well as build trust, which is crucial to our efforts in lowering crime and ensuring everyone enjoys the same level of safety."

So-called listening tours have become a popular police response to community outcry over alleged misconduct and Justice Department complaints. Recently, such meetings have been held or announced in Cleveland, Minneapolis and Richmond, Virginia.

The final impetus for neighborhood outreach in Chicago appears to be last week's acquittal of a Chicago police detective on charges of involuntary manslaughter in the 2012 shooting death of 22-year-old Rekia Boyd, an unarmed black woman.

The judge's stunning ruling, in which he hinted that detective Dante Servin should have been charged with murder, sparked anger among residents. They echoed a now-familiar cry: that police are not held accountable for killing minority citizens.

Charlene Carruthers, national director for the activist group Black Youth Project 100, told The Huffington Post that she's encouraged the police are willing to listen, but that the community has been vocal about the problems for a long time.

"I think if the [Chicago Police Department] is at all serious about changing their relationship with the black community, a listening tour could be perhaps a good first step, but the community has made these demands for quite some time and they haven’t been met," Carruthers said.

She said that adding more police officers is not the way to improve safety. Rather, more resources should be spent on social services, job creation and mental health services to strengthen the net safety for minority communities. Additionally, police misconduct cases like Servin's must be reviewed by an independently appointed civilian board.

"Anything seems unrealistic when you first talk about it," Carruthers said of those demands. "The way it is now is not an absolute, so it’s possible to change."

McCarthy and other top police brass will attend the meetings along with rank-and-file officers. At the end of the tour, the department's statement said, McCarthy will present Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel with a report of recommendations.

The Chicago Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article listed the title of Charlene Carruthers as "national coordinator." Carruthers is the national director for BYP 100.

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