The Policing Project and the Chicago Police Department recently announced our new partnership with Chicago community members to bring an important new initiative in community policing to the city. The Chicago Neighborhood Policing Initiative launched in District 25 at the beginning of this year. It is funded through the generous support of the Joyce Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
But what is NPI? Who is involved in NPI, and how is it different from the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) program? As introduction, we offer the FAQ below to help you learn more about Chicago NPI and why we believe it will have a substantial impact on improving community-police relations in the city. Additional information is available on the Chicago NPI website.
What is the Chicago Neighborhood Policing Initiative (NPI)?
The Chicago Police Department (CPD) is working to improve relationships with you. NPI is central to CPD’s efforts to improve policing in Chicago, and work collaboratively with residents like you to create a shared vision of public safety. NPI will start first in District 25, which includes the neighborhoods of Montclare, Belmont Cragin, Hermosa, Logan Square and Austin. It will then gradually expand from there.
How will NPI change policing in Chicago?
The Neighborhood Policing Initiative (NPI) is an intensive community policing approach that prioritizes relationship building and focusing on the top priorities of the community.
Modeled on the Neighborhood Policing Structure in New York City, NPI is designed to create a true community policing structure that promotes accountability, problem-solving, and increased positive contact between police officers and neighborhood residents.
Part of NPI is a community engagement process that will give community members a meaningful voice in how their neighborhoods are policed. The goal is to bring residents and police officials together, as equal partners, to produce public safety in their communities.
Why is this work necessary?
In Chicago and across the country, highly-policed communities often do not have close relationships with the officers who patrol their streets. Instead, residents and law enforcement too often face each other with mistrust and cynicism about each other’s intentions.
When the police and the community they serve don’t trust each other, two things happen. First, the public does not work collaboratively with the police department. Second, in the face of this mistrust, community members are reluctant to call upon the police, and some segments of the public take the law into their own hands. This explains a portion of the violence Chicago is experiencing.
No Public Input
At present, the public has very little voice in how it is policed. There is not enough publicly-available information about what the police do, and why—and even less engagement between the public and the police about those policing methods.
The result is a lack of public safety, an increase in violent crime, and feelings of powerlessness about police response.
It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way
CPD wants to improve its relationships with the communities it polices, and work with them to reduce violence and crime, and improve public safety. CPD has asked the Policing Project to work with its officers and with affected communities to develop a strategy to improve things – to change and strengthen the relationships between police officers and the people they serve. NPI is the result.
Who is Involved?
The Policing Project is a nonprofit organization focused on bringing community voice to policing through greater engagement between police and the public on the rules that govern policing. The Policing Project believes policing should be transparent and reflect community values. That is the essence of the democracy that police officers swear to protect and defend.
Superintendent Johnson invited the Policing Project to help create an innovative neighborhood policing model that will bring officers into more contact with the communities they police in a constructive way, and give community members more say in how they are policed. The Policing Project has been working closely with CPD, and people and organizations from across District 25.
When is all of this happening?
NPI is already underway in the 25th District, which will serve as the pilot district. The lessons we learn from this work will be used to shape how NPI is rolled out in every neighborhood in Chicago.
What will this engagement actually look like?
The Policing Project has been building relationships with residents in 25, the NPI pilot district, to get to know the neighborhoods as closely as possible. We will be using input and ideas to create settings where people can feel comfortable talking openly and honestly about policing in their neighborhoods, and about what will work and what will not. The community engagement process that results will be designed based on this input, and will ensure that people can have the most organic and constructive conversations possible.
Why should I sit down with the police?
The goal of our project is to change the dynamic between CPD and you – the people it serves. Communities will be part of the actual decision-making process of how they are policed. Rather than being driven by what the police have always done, this is about Chicago communities coming together to identify problems and develop solutions, and to guide police efforts.
What happens if there is a new police commander?
Many people in the community complain about how often commanders transition in and out of districts, and that is something CPD must hear and respond to. At the same time, successful, community oriented, policing should not depend on any one person. The goal is for CPD and the communities it polices to come to a shared understanding of what policing should look like that permeates every level of the Department and does not depend on one person.
We are not New York. How can we know that NPI will work in Chicago?
The Policing Project has worked closely with Chicagoans in the community and at CPD to listen to them and hear what they think will work in Chicago. Our organization’s mission is bringing community voice to policing. We have Chicagoans and former Chicagoans working with us on our team. We are and will continue to facilitate and moderate conversations among residents and police officials, who know these communities better than anyone else.
Will NYU come in as an academic experiment and then leave?
No. We are here to help Chicago develop a new model of policing grounded in community engagement. We will work closely with the community and CPD to help this model succeed, and then work to develop training and related materials so it can be spread throughout the city. Our goal is to be here to help CPD implement these changes – working out any issues that arise, course-correcting when necessary, and helping to celebrate the victories when they come.
Have another question? Feedback? Ideas? We would love to hear from you.