Our association will be 75 years old on April 12. We have been a force for the public good in Illinois. Think of it:
- Professional development and training. We’ve been a leader in elevating the profession, going back to the 1950s when we pushed for a training center that became the Police Training Institute at the University of Illinois.
- Traffic safety: We pushed for mandatory seat belts in the 1980s and 1990s when the public generally opposed it. Now most people consider seat belts a no-brainer. A simple idea that has saved too many lives to count or know about. And we led the way with the Illinois Traffic Safety Challenge.
- International influence: Seven Illinois chiefs have been president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police since the 1940s, one in each decade.
- Public policy advocacy: Just this year, we worked with the Illinois Attorney General’s office to overhaul state laws on the investigation and reporting of sexual assault. All done behind the scenes. Legislation has been introduced and we hope it passes this spring. One of hundreds of examples of solid advocacy to protect Illinois citizens.
- Special Olympics is our special friend: We have been major backers of the Law Enforcement Torch Run for 30 years and we are wild participants in the Polar Plunge and Cop on a Top and other programs. Last year, Illinois was number two in the world in raising money for Special Olympics. Not bad.
You might be surprised by how candid the head of the International Association of Chiefs of Police was about the law enforcement profession late last year. I don’t think people realize the extent to which police leaders are undergoing serious self-examination. We hear what critics are saying. Here is what IACP President Terry Cunningham of Masschusetts said:
“Some say we are in a moment where we are battling for the very soul of our profession. …
“What we’re seeing is a culmination of a sense of unfairness, injustice, and loss of dignity that so many have experienced, not just at the hands of the police though, but by a social system that has let so many down. Each incident we now see is a flashpoint that’s exploded into increasing unrest, greater mistrust, and calls for major reform. We’ve seen demonstrations in every corner of the country and in many nations around the world, and with it, a momentum that grows with every perceived miscarriage of justice.
“I believe, we’re faced with one of the gravest crises to ever confront the policing profession. Today we stand at a major crossroads. We have a choice before us: either we lead, take action, and define our own destiny or we remain silent and allow others to shape our destiny for us. History is a great teacher: if we do not, others will!”
Cunningham and other leaders want police to work with community leaders and political leaders to face social problems together. I think you’re going to see more and more positive steps in 2016.
RELATED: Obama’s support for law enforcement
It’s still big news when a woman becomes a police chief, especially in Illinois’ second largest city: Aurora, with a population of just more than 200,000.
Kristen Ziman is the experienced Aurora officer who is expected to be approved as police chief this week.
I’ve also discovered that she is a very good writer. She has been a columnist for the Aurora Beacon News, and she has her own blog, where her posts are about policing, and they get personal.
She wrote, for example, about her father’s suicide late last year and she wrote candidly about his angels and demons and her own reaction to them. She was his only child, and he had been a police officer, too. What courage to write about this. What talent to write about this so thoughtfully.
More than anything, I’d like for 2016 to be a year when we have fruitful conversations again about police keeping their communities safe. The national narrative, especially in the media, makes this difficult.
So I was heartened by what President Obama said in a speech last October:
“I reject any narrative that seeks to divide police and communities that they serve. I reject a storyline that says when it comes to public safety there’s an “us” and a “them” –- a narrative that too often gets served up to us by news stations seeking ratings, or tweets seeking retweets. …
“I am convinced that progress comes together when we work together, and we work together best when we’re willing to understand one another — when, instead of having debates over talk radio, we stop and listen to each other so that we can empathize with the father who fears his son can’t walk home without being mistaken for a criminal; and when we sympathize with the wife who can’t rest until her husband walks through the front door at the end of his shift.”
The president said this in Chicago when more than 10,000 people were at the International Association of Chiefs of Police annual conference.
Such reasonable statements tend to get lost, so I’ll have a lot more to say about this topic this year.
“I wish Obama hadn’t said that” [April 29, 2015]
Following the filing of criminal charges against a Chicago Police Officer earlier this week, Chief Frank Kaminski of Park Ridge, President of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police (ILACP), joins the chorus of public officials and community leaders in calling for calm and peaceful demonstrations.
“The right of citizens to peaceably assemble and protest is a fundamental right guaranteed under the constitution, one of the many rights and freedoms that our member agencies and officers help to protect every day. I would call on those troubled with the recent events involving a Chicago police officer to show restraint and insure that any demonstrations are peaceful and respect the rights of all citizens,” said Chief Kaminski.
In light of recent events, both in Chicago and across the nation, a great deal of emphasis has been placed on reviewing the role of law enforcement in American society. The ILACP continues to endorse the importance of Community Policing to build partnerships and community engagement. The ILACP recognizes the importance of accountability, fairness, and the protection of citizens’ rights in the performance of our law enforcement duties. To help achieve this, officers are and must be held to the highest ethical and professional standards.
Community policing doesn’t mean you’re patrolling the neighborhood. It means you’re part of the neighborhood, and you know who the bad guys are, and you make it safer for everybody else. Do foot patrols. Do bike patrols. Talk to people and get to know them.
That’s what Chicago PD Superintendent Garry McCarthy and Mayor Rahm Emanuel said at the opening ceremonies today at the annual conference of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
The police have responded, and are responding, to being in a giant negative spotlight in the past year. Meanwhile, some groups want to continue a narrative that police believe some lives don’t matter and that most of them just beat people up.
One problem is, police not only have to do what McCarthy and Emanuel suggested, but they have to find more and more ways to communicate to citizens that they totally support community policing. Which most police chiefs and peace officers do.
Posted on Facebook and worth repeating:
A Message from Vernon Hills Chief Mark Fleischhauer –
The tragic death of Fox Lake Police Lieutenant Gliniewicz earlier this week has had a profound effect on everyone across the country. No one would have believed that something this horrific could happen here in our communities.
I would like to personally thank all the members of our community that called, e-mailed, sent cards, or dropped off food for the members of our department. I think I can speak for all of our officers when I say that we have not seen this much outpouring of support for law enforcement since the events of September 11, 2001. Personally, virtually everywhere I have been this week, people that I have never met have offered their condolences, thanked me for our service and for the work we do in the community. They have offered to buy us lunch, a cup of coffee, or to just talk for a few moments. Many of our officers have related similar experiences.
Recent events across the country have focused a lot of negative attention on law enforcement and how we perform our duties. On behalf of the men and women of the Vernon Hills Police Department, I would like to say thank you to all the members of our community who have always stood with us and supported us. I believe that Lieutenant Gliniewicz would be proud to see the level of support that has been expressed for law enforcement in each of our communities.
On Saturday and Sunday, September 12 and 13, the Vernon Hills Police Department will be hosting the annual Law Enforcement Exhibition at Westfield Hawthorn Mall. There will be approximately 25 law enforcement agencies represented from across Lake and Cook County. We invite you to stop by, meet some of the law enforcement officers from your community, and say thanks. I know they would appreciate it.
Last week Governor Rauner signed the Police and Community Relations Improvement Act. Proponents are calling it significant, comprehensive police reform, and it will affect Illinois law enforcement big time. Today I just want to provide a few facts. Among its major components:
- Allows but doesn’t require police departments to use body cameras
- Requires police to give “stop receipts” to citizens after many interactions
- Bans the use of chokeholds
- Increases mandatory officer training of officers in areas such as the proper use of force, cultural competency, and recognizing implicit bias
- Requires an independent investigation of officer-involved deaths
Here is our Illinois police chiefs’ statement that we released when the bill was signed. We think some aspects of the bill might prove to be counterproductive to good community policing, but we are committed to building and rebuilding trust with citizens and communities. It’s essential that we do.
The law is 175 pages long, so it’s going to take some time to unpack it for Illinois citizens. Here is a one-page fact sheet from the Illinois Senate Democrats. Here is a little more detail that came with the announcement from the bill’s sponsors. Here is the full text of the new law, which was SB1304 and is now Public Act 099-0352.
It’s nice when responsible people have reasonable dialogues. That’s what happened this spring when Illinois police chiefs had a good conversation with Illinois NAACP President George Mitchell. Out of that, body cameras for police became a top mutual priority, and we’re pleased to see that issue advancing in the Illinois legislature this week.
Not only that, but the presidents of the two organizations said today it’s significant that the two of them are issuing a joint statement about this topic. Read their statement here.
And then you might feel more hopeful about the future of people in Illinois working together to make our communities safer.
This month’s tragic death of an SIU-E student trying to sell his car via Craigslist is chilling. A growing number of Illinois police departments is providing safer places for these exchanges, so the Illinois chiefs’ association documented this along with a list of best practices for citizens to make such exchanges much safer. Contact your local police department for more information.