To the Editor:
Let’s say your second-grader is about a half mile or more from your home, and a three-year-old darts out into the street. Your kid saves the child. The mother would be grateful, the neighbors would be grateful. There may be a school assembly, and the media, politicians and other notables would be there to honor your kid. But after a while, you may ask your kid a pointed question about the incident: Why were you there?
It’s a question I ask, two blocks from campus, regarding the University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD) shooting of a U. of C. student. No one was sure it was a university matter, but that it was an emergency situation that demanded police action. I can image that some of us may have the 10-digit UCPD number on our speed dial, but the overwhelming majority most likely called 911, the public horn to municipal police.
During an encounter, we African-American males have been socialized to show our hands, move slowly, follow directions and do nothing to provoke an officer into shooting you. I’m not going to fault the officer. None of what I said above appeared to have been followed. However, if the officer wasn’t campus policing, then he was community policing. And like your kid saving the child, I have to question why he or any other UCPD officer was there.
We all want safety, and what that officer did was to keep himself, other officers, and the community safe from an imminent threat. Kudos to both him and the second-grader. But if I am paying grocery bag taxes, water bottle taxes, additional cell phone taxes and higher property taxes, the rationale that UCPD is faster, nicer and more professional begins to pale when I can’t get this level of service without them. If I lived in Washington Park or Grand Crossing, where they pay these same taxes, are they supposed to just accept their level of police service? We don’t trust Chicago Police Department, or want to use them, but are those other neighborhoods, who have many more issues, supposed to settle for bad, untrustworthy police that they pay for, also?
It is alleged that those surrounding neighborhoods are responsible for a substantial amount of our crime. So is our solution to build a wall surrounding 64th through 37th streets, Cottage Grove to the lake? UCPD Patrols have sharply increased, as I have noticed their heavy presence at these borders. While many of us abhor President Trump and his border wall, we are quite satisfied with ours. And these border cops, like their federal counterparts, are quick to ask for your papers, or ID, to allow you to travel freely within the United States of Hyde Park, Kenwood and Woodlawn.
At least President Trump’s wall will be publicly funded, and will have oversight and review. Can we say the same of UCPD?