To the Editor:
Due to the recent shootings, I have noticed a heavy saturation of police patrols in the North Hyde Park and South Kenwood areas, by both Chicago and University of Chicago police departments. But UCPD patrols have been much heavier, despite the fact that the University of Chicago has sold off much of its residential and commercial property north of its 55th Street campus borders.
Former 4th Ward Ald. Will Burns asked UCPD to increase patrols back in September in response to a shooting in Kenwood. But they have become heavier since his resignation in March and prior to the appointment of Interim Ald. Sophia King. This implies that UCPD is operating on its own agenda by taking the initiative to significantly increase these patrols.
They do so because current state statutes and city ordinances allow for this, for which State Senator Kwame Raoul, and 5th Ward Alderman Leslie Hariston have not kept the commitments they made to reign in UCPD.
State Senator Raoul has made a commitment to re-introduce HB3932, which subjects UCPD to the same Freedom of Information Act standards all public Illinois police forces are required to abide by. Sen. Raoul recently praised Chief Walker’s decision to equip his officers with body cameras. But if a UCPD officer unloads a clip into a resident ala Laquan McDonald-style, that video will never see the light of day. While Senator Raoul helped to write the standards that govern the use of police body cams, he continues to neglect the public’s right to see them if a private police force, one given constitutional law enforcement powers, declines to make them public. The bill has been stalled in the judiciary committee he chairs, since May of 2015.
Ald. Hariston agreed to head a task force to look into claims of abuse by UCPD in a community meeting back in October of 2014, the same month the McDonald shooting occurred. In that same meeting, the 4+ term alderman stated this was an issue she was familiar with since having attended the University’s Lab School as a child. Yet since she has chaired the committee, I have heard nothing coming from it. As someone who is currently advancing reforms within the Chicago’s Police Department, such as abolishing the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), the only ordinances I am aware of that she has backed was the advancing of 2011 and 2015 Memorandum of Understandings with the University, which endorses UCPD as a law-enforcement partner. Not once has she used her position or past experiences to make UC’s independent review body independent from the University, nor has she pushed to require UCPD be subject to FOIA, something the City of Chicago is not prohibited by state statute from doing.
UCPD Chief Fountain Walker says that his department may have committed abuses in the past, but now they’ve turned over a new leaf. I’d like to educate him on how those past abuses occurred. (1). The community is encouraged to call UCPD because of its’ lack of trust of a police department it pays for, (2). Serious incidents begin to make community residents fearful, which is now occurring, (3). A tipping-point crime that involves a University student makes national headlines, and, (4). A University response, that makes creative use of current, inadequate laws, provides an avenue via UCPD for the University to protect its’ reputation in part by abusing the rights of non-university residents. When protests of these abuses reaches a crescendo, the police chief will be removed from his position. We’ve seen it before, Chief Walker.
Both State Sen. Raoul and Ald. Hariston have also seen it before. It is incredible that they both would decry Cook County’s State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez and the time she took to prosecute police misconduct, but have taken similar timeframes to act upon HB3932, and a taskforce to institute real reform on private police forces, issues they’ve understood for most of their lives. Should not the voters take a similar stance with them as they have done with Ms. Alvarez?