To the Editor:
As someone who has been very much involved in the debate over community policing, I welcome the attention given to this issue, in particular, on these pages, from journalist Jamie Kalven, and my alderman, Will Burns (4th). I’m not quite sure I understand the points they are attempting to make in regards to it.
On May 6, Mr. Kalven wrote a very detailed letter criticizing the recently passed House Bill 3932 for not going far enough in subjecting private university and college police forces to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. However, just a couple of weeks ago, he was effusing praise on the University of Chicago for its voluntary efforts to release information that in many cases is already public. The University of Chicago was also much less clear and transparent in what they would be releasing on their soon-to-be-revamped website. While his points may have merit, let’s keep in mind that it should not be part of UCPD’s mission — or that of any other private university or college —to police the community. Aside from that, gaining recourse and potential relief through the courts, and an arbiter in the state Attorney General, should be huge plusses to a journalist who has used these same avenues to prevail in his attempts to gain access to information from public police forces. A better solution, Mr. Kalven, is to not have UCPD police the community at all, because it is a private entity, and we are never going to perfect its role in public policing.
In his letter, Alderman Burns brings up the point of good and bad cops. UCPD is a department that has approximately 100 sworn officers. In 2013, UCPD performed traffic stops on over 12,000 citizens, about 120 per sworn officer, within a 50,000-population jurisdiction. UCPD’s jurisdiction encompassed a large chunk of the 4th Ward in 2013. By contrast, the City of Chicago’s police department, with just more than 12,000 sworn officers, performed about 100,000 traffic stops, or about 8 persons per sworn officer, within a 2,700,000-population jurisdiction. In CPD’s case, roughly six of those eight persons stopped were minority. In UCPD’s case, 96 of the 120 were minority. Respectfully, Ald. Burns, we don’t have a “handful who violate that trust” issue. These numbers, and your community, appear to be saying much, much more than that. Introducing the “good cop/bad cop” issue does nothing in my opinion to address this disparity, let alone inform us of who the good and bad cops are. I understand your concerns about our relationship with law enforcement, but the numbers above should never be the price we pay for that relationship.