Chicago Police Department Wysinger Discusses Community Collaboration

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When it comes to solving the city’s violence, local law enforcement can only do so much, the rest is up to the parents, churches and the community, Chicago Police First Deputy Al Wysinger said.

Superintendent Garry McCarthy handpicked the 25-year-old veteran Chicago Police officer for the first deputy position in 2011.

“It takes a collaborative effort from the church, men in the community and others,” said Wysinger, who said the values and mentality of people have drastically changed since when he was growing up.

He said there will always be neighborhoods where there is that one individual or group encouraging a young person to do something they shouldn’t. The difference between now and then, he said is that there aren’t as many people stepping up and pulling the youth away from those voices.

“It’s about acting or working as a village,” he said, but that village has crumbled over the decades, he added.

Having lived in neighborhoods such as Austin on the West Side and Englewood on the Southside, and attending public schools, Wysinger said he understands what many inner city youth go through. Unlike this generation, he had people steering him onto the right path, which he credits to his success.

“It can be done, you can escape it, but these kids today probably have it harder than I did because that village is not here,” he said.

Over the the generations, there has been a shift in values, but another issue is the lack of trust some communities have towards police officers, Wysinger said.

“We need to breakdown stereotypes about law enforcement in our communities,” he said.

One way that the Chicago Police Department is trying to do that is by actively engaging in the community through foot patrol, CAPS meetings and youth programs. Another way to tackle the trust issue is transparency. Wysinger said that the department is doing a better job of sharing what they’re doing on its website so people can stay updated.

Earlier this year, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced some new approaches that the city would be implementing to curb the youth violence, using the help of the Chicago Police Department, the Chicago public schools, the park district, the Chicago department of Public Health, as well as other county partners.

According to a press release, the strategy focuses on six key goals, including expanding mentoring and jobs for youth, adopting school-based reforms to reduce the violence, and empowering communities to play an active role.

CPD also initiated Text-a-Tip in 2009, Wysinger said. The approach allows people to anonymously text information to the police at CRIMES (274637).

Wysinger said it would also be good if there were more diversity on the force because people need to see a representation of their community.

“We need more officers from communities of all colors,” he said, adding that now applicants can take the exam at 18 and get hired at 21. Lowering the age pulls in more young people, giving them another option after high school, Wysinger said.

“This is an incentive to stay on the right path,” he said.

Since being in office, Wysinger said the accomplishment he is most proud of is the number of applicants. Last year there were 19,000 compared to the 10,000 the year before last. The Gang Violence Reduction Strategy is something else CPD has implemented and that Wysinger said is making their jobs easier. Everything is a work in progress, though, and he said challenges come with his position, but improvements are being made.

“Crime is down compared to last year, but we could do a lot better with the help of the communities,” he said.

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