Stop the Violence

by Cenabeth Cross 

The new year started a bit before midnight. The noise was deafening. The gunshots continued until 5 a.m. I heard single shots. I heard sounds that reminded me of cannons. I heard machine gun fire and that type of sound that Uzis make. I heard sounds that I had no idea what weapon, or weapons, made it. The boys in the ‘hood, my neighborhood, are well stocked with guns and rifles. The war could go on for a while.

On the South Side, in the Robert Taylor Homes, the bullets started to fly right after the holidays. This time, the parents themselves began to go to the school to pick their children up and escort them home. The Chicago Public Schools hired parents to start escorting kids to school and the CHA Tenant Patrols also are getting involved.

Citizens Review Board

On Jan. 8, I attended a press conference for the announcement of the creation of a Citizens Review Board. CHA Executive Director Joseph Shuldiner supplied the background information and Leroy O’Shield, the CHA Police Chief, introduced the board and told us of its mission and function.

Shuldiner announced the formation of a Citizens Advisory Board to improve the reputation and preserve the integrity of the agency’s 400-member police department. The nine-member board will be responsible for reviewing citizen complaints and recommending standards and policies for good policing.

“Any police agency benefits from objective public oversight,” Shuldiner said. “This establishes accountability to the public, which is vital if we are to engender the trust and partnership needed for community policing to be successful.”

The new board will review all citizen complaints of misconduct or wrongdoing by CHA police and will make recommendations to the CHA Police on the effectiveness of the department’s investigation of complaints. In addition, the board’s public meetings provide a public forum for citizens to air grievances and concerns about issues related to police conduct.

Board members serve without compensation for staggered terms of one to three years. Members will receive training in CHA Police general orders, policies and regulations, disciplinary and investigative practices as well as standards for resident conduct.

The board’s own standards and practices were developed following a lengthy review of all cases adjudicated over the last year alleging police misconduct by residents.

The CHA police has established a confidential hotline number-888-67-CRIME—for citizens to call with complaints or recommendations to the Citizens Review Board. Anyone who calls this hotline can keep their name private.

The board comprises members from a variety of backgrounds to represent the best interest of CHA’s 40,000 households. The members and alternates include Al Carter, Al Carter Youth Foundation, Elga Jefferies, Chicago Department of Revenue, Dr. Bernard Hedley, Northwestern University, the Rev. Charles Murray, New Galilee M.B. Church, Mary Powers, Citizens Alert, Charles Reynolds, Local Advisory Council president of Stateway Gardens, Juanita Stevenson, LAC president from Lathrop Homes, Shirley Hammond, president of the Senior Housing North Local Advisory Council, Marie Billingsley, Senior Housing South president and Dr. Carl C. Bell, president and CEO of the Community Mental Health Council, Inc.

Shuldiner started the meeting saying that his deepest concern is fear and crime in the housing complexes. By being involved in their own protection along with the community, Shuldiner said residents have someone to turn to whom they trust. There will be no CHA workers on the board.

“It puts in a non-police facility a resident-friendly environment, on their (the police’s) turf, if you will. We’re young and we’re trying something that will be very helpful. We want our residents to feel safe.”

CHA Police Chief O’Shield said, “This is a model for the country. If formed around the country, citizens will feel like there is somewhere they can go. We made sure residents are on the board so there is someone they have confidence in. Then they (the residents) won’t have to resort to violence.”

O’Shield turned the meeting over to state Sen. Rickey Hendon, who spoke of the late Mrs. Artensa Randolph, the longtime president of the Central Advisory Council, who had been to Springfield trying to get legislators to pass the bill creating the citizens’ review board. The bill was signed a week before Randolph’s death.

Mrs. Randolph’s friend, Henry Horner Homes LAC President Mamie Bone, informed everyone that Mrs. Randolph had been informed that the bill was passed and was thrilled about it.

CHA Police Facts

About the Chicago Housing Authority Police Department: Community-oriented policing was implemented department-wide in 1997. Mobile patrols were reduced but foot patrols have been substantially increased as have police presence and visibility.

Police officers have permanent assignments to clusters of buildings where they are required to organize the buildings by floors, meet with the tenants and the Local Advisory Councils and collectively identify, prioritize and solve problems involving crime and quality of life issues.

Police officers are supposed to patrol public schools at the beginning and end of the school day.

Officers also are assigned to remove abandoned and derelict vehicles from CHA properties.

Police officers have received training in domestic violence, violence against women, crime prevention environmental design, service of process and police/community leadership in 1997. Residents, CHA police and security officers have received joint community empowerment training.

The 1995 budget for public safety was $75.2 million. It included 470 police officers at a cost of $60.8 million and 270 in house security officers at $14.4 million. In 1998, the number of police officers is projected to be 380 with 100 security officers with an overall budget of $40 million – a $35 million or a 46 percent budget reduction in three years. The contract security budget in 1996 was $14.3 million. In 1997, it was reduced to $9.1 million and in 1998 it is projected to be reduced to $4 million. The overtime expenditures for 1996 were $4.8 million. In 1997, overtime was $2.1 million and projected to further reduced in 1998 to $1.75 million.

The review board could be helpful in cutting out all overtime. The residents could be included in the duties.

This proactive move should raise the bar on conduct and enforcement, increase police oversight and improve community relations.

Crime Victims Aid

There is financial aid for victims of crime. The Crime Victims Bureau is located at 100 W. Randolph St., on the 13th floor.

You are eligible for financial compensation if you are a victim of a violent crime and sustained physical injuries, are a survivor or a victim of a violent crime or if you depended upon the victim for support. You also can receive funds if you are a relative of the victim and incurred reasonable funeral or medical expenses, are a parent of a child who witnessed a violent crime committed against a relative or if you are an Illinois resident who becomes a victim of a violent crime in another state or country that does not have a compensation fund for crime.

To be eligible for the compensation, you must report the crime to the authorities within 72 hours and cooperate fully with law enforcement officers and you must be free of any involvement in the crime.

You must complete an application for compensation and return it to the Illinois Attorney General’s Office within a year of the date of injury. The office will then forward a copy to the court of claims at the Secretary of State’s office. Forms are also available from the Springfield and regional offices.

Applicants must provide any and all information related to the crime to the Office of the Attorney General. The agency will investigate and verify information in the application and may request applicants to appear for a personal interview.

The final decision will be made by the court of claims.

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