CHICAGO — The Chicago Police Department is launching two new teams to combat crime and build bridges between the department and local communities, officials said Monday.
CPD Superintendent David Brown said a Community Safety Team made up of 300 officers will focus on strengthening relationships with residents on the south and west sides, as well as responding to crime hot spots in those areas.
Brown said their number one responsibility is to interact with those communities in a positive way.
“We’re trying to learn from our mistakes, we have to put community policing first and foremost before we start enforcing,” Brown said. “You can’t have one without the other, and community policing in my opinion comes first because until you know the community you can’t protect the community.”
A Critical Incident Response Team made up of 250 officers will focus on special events, marches, and other large gatherings.
“The mission of the Critical Incident Response Team is simple: it’s to protect the residents and the visitors that come to the downtown area or any area in the city that are here to peacefully express their views or are here to enjoy a ballgame or a festival,” said Michael Piggott, Deputy Chief for CIRT.
While the CIRT team will focus on the downtown area, but it will also be flexible enough to move throughout the city as needed.
Brown said their job will be to protect the First Amendment rights of those participating in demonstrations, while also keeping people safe.
“This team is specially trained to make sure protests remain peaceful,” Brown said. “And we saw this play out just this past weekend as the CIRT team did a tremendous job ensuring that protesters were able to express their First Amendment rights without any major incidents. I’m confident in this leadership that we’ve placed in these new teams.”
CPD disbanded its roving response teams about 10 years ago over concerns about its aggressive approach.
Brown said citywide teams have been successful in other major cities, and he’s confident these strategies will help reduce crime in Chicago. He said the key is to put community policing first.
“We have made tenuous progress this past weekend compared with the past but no one is satisfied and there’s much work to be done,” Brown said.