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While it may still be too early to give Police Superintendent Jody Weis a grade on his tenure in office, it is not too early to critique his individual actions. His decision to cut street cops out of the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy program rates

While it may still be too early to give Police Superintendent Jody Weis a grade on his tenure in office, it is not too early to critique his individual actions. His decision to cut street cops out of the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy program rates an “F.”

The move is a financial one, with Mayor Richard M. Daley pushing each department to cut 15 percent from its budget to try to overcome a looming $400 million deficit. Weis decided that to help meet that number, he would no longer pay overtime for beat officers to attend the CAPS meetings.

Instead of paying the overtime, Weis wants to involve senior officers in the CAPS program and have them attend the meetings. He won’t have to pay the extra.

Of course we can argue that the officers should never have been paid for the meetings in the first place. Community members are asked to volunteer. In a city where police officers have developed a bad reputation, especially in minority communities, the CAPS program not only helped to close the gap, but it also helped to improve policing because community residents became more familiar with the beat cop.

CAPS is a partnership between the police and the community. Despite the increase in the city’s murder rate, CAPS does work because it helps the community take part in its own policing. By bringing residents into contact with the police, it lowers the distrust–on both sides. It is not the panacea to all of the crime problems in our communities, but it is a valuable tool.

But putting the senior officers into the CAPS campaign is not the answer. They are not the officers the community sees day in and day out. They are not familiar with the community. They are not the officers who respond to police calls. Bringing them in severely undercuts the mission of the CAPS campaign.

We recognize the need to save money, and yes, even the police bureau can find some places to trim fat, but sacrificing the value of the CAPS campaign is not the place.

We recognize that Weis is between a rock and a hard place. While you can ask the police officers to volunteer, Weis cannot compel them, which is counter to the definition of “volunteer.” That means they have to be paid. But the CAPS responsibilities should be considered part of the job, not an addendum to it. It should be part of the regular rotation of duties of the police officers so that no overtime is necessary. Weis should do all that he can to continue the work of the CAPS campaign and find alternatives to taking the beat officers out of CAPS.

Copyright 2008 Chicago Defender. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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