Residents vent worries about University of Chicago police, share fears that they’re targeting minority teens
By LINDSAY WELBERS
Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) authorized a Hyde Park journalist to form an ad hoc committee to take a critical look at the University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD) and recommend ways it can better police the community.
UCPD came under fire by members of the community for practices that many called racial profiling at a forum last week. Journalist Jamie Kalven, founder of the Invisible Institute, hosted the event, attended by at least 150 people at the Experimental Station, 6100 S. Blackstone Ave.
Jamel Triggs, a former Marine who now works with young people at Blackstone Bike Works at Experimental Station, said he has been stopped by UCPD on a number of occasions, often by the same officers.
“I’ve been held up, handcuffed and put on the curb for no reason, just because I was there,” said Triggs. “[I don’t know if UCPD officers are trained] to tail Black men on bicycles coming from a bike shop home every night, but it happens.”
Triggs said he is concerned that UCPD officers don’t interact positively with the students at Blackstone Bike Works and said that will hurt them in the long run.
“These kids will be [less] reluctant to tell you information about something happened if he knows you, if he’s seen you every day,” Triggs said.
UCPD patrols from 37th Street on the north to 64th Street on the south and Cottage Grove Avenue to the west and Lake Michigan to the east. It has full police powers, granted by both a state statute and city ordinance.
Rudy Nimocks, who served as Chief of Police for UCPD for 20 years before he retired in 20008, said UCPD’s jurisdiction expanded as far as it did because the community requested it.
“Before we did the extension of our jurisdiction, the people of the community had a chance to comment on the expansion of our powers … I said ‘We’ll stay here as long as you want us’ and that’s the way it’s been ever since,” Nimocks said.
When Nimocks came to UCPD in 1989, after a multi-decade career with the Chicago Police Department, it employed 170 officers, including many part-time CPD officers. Nimocks is now the Director of Neighborhood Partnerships at the University of Chicago. UCPD currently employs approximately 100 officers, trained at the Police Academy.
People stood up to say that UCPD’s presence in the neighborhood is welcome, but that the level and style of policing undermines their ability to trust the department.
Kalven said UCPD’s lack of transparency doesn’t give the public the tools it needs to act as good citizens because it fosters a lack of trust.
“Transparency incentivizes good behavior. If people know what they’re doing is potentially public there’s an incentive do to their jobs well, but to get more fundamental than that it provides us, as citizens, with the information we need to perform our roles,” Kalven said. “In the absence of information we don’t have the ability to be effectively policed.”
Curtrice Scott said she grew up in Hyde Park, and never felt afraid of UCPD or the police, but now she sees a lack of transparency.
“Saying that we have criticisms or we want dialogue doesn’t mean we want the force to be abolished … but I am very concerned about accountability or transparency,” Scott said. “If you are policing me, in my neighborhood and my kids then you don’t just communicate with the people who work for [the University of Chicago], who go to school there. We all need to know.”
Scott has also seen officers aggressively stop people, particularly young people of color, and has questions about why UCPD polices the way it does for traffic stops.
“Not only do I see traffic stops all the time, and they’re a variety of color but they’re primarily brown people — sometimes older, mostly young, often male — I see four or five University of Chicago cars for one kid. Now I understand backup is an issue, because they ride solo and I think safety is key, but why do you need four or five police cars for one little boy?”
Since the forum, the university has announced the creation of a new position to investigate complaints against the UCPD.
The Director of Professional Accountability will not be a member of the UCPD and will conduct investigations, according to a statement released by Jeremy Manier on behalf of Gloria Graham, assistant chief of the UCPD.
In the statement, Graham points to efforts the university is making to be “transparent and accountable” to the community, including an online crime log and reporting UCPD is mandated to provide to other state and federal agencies.
Graham also flatly denied accusations that the UCPD was engaged in racial profiling.
“The University of Chicago Police Department does not deploy tactics that support racial profiling,” she said.