The ground continues to shift at the Chicago Police Department. On Thursday, outgoing Mayor Richard Daley said he wanted civilians rather than uniformed police officers to run the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) program. Ron Holt, the CAPS director, told the Tribune that too many of the 200 to 300 officers assigned to CAPS were doing administrative and civilian tasks. Many are expected to be reassigned to patrol work.
At CAPS' meetings, neighborhood residents meet with beat officers, make requests for service, complain about ongoing public safety issues, and view statistics about area crime patterns. In 2008, less than 49,000 Chicago residents attended a CAPS meeting, the lowest total ever and a rate 30 percent lower than 2002 figures. Still, some community leaders are worried about losing access to officers and info about local crime. "This will kill CAPS," one volunteer said of the changes.
CAPS has both been held up as a model and criticized since it was founded in 1993. A story published in the Chicago Reporter 10 years back found CAPS workers hired through a non-profit were used more for public relations than helping residents. The Chicago Justice Project, which analyzes criminal justice issues in Chicago, argued CAPS never forged true partnerships between police and community, never engaged city youth in a meaningful way, and abetted gentrification. An evaluation of the program (PDF) after its first 10 years by the Northwestern professor who helped bring CAPS to Chicago gave it generally good marks. With Daley soon out the door and a new police superintendent likely coming in with the next mayor, this is a ripe time for a debate about the CAPS program -- and community policing more generally -- in Chicago.