In association with our learning on America`s situation in police brutality and criminality, our teacher contacted two police officers working in Chicago, a city with many different environments largely affected by crime. Due to their require of being anonymous, they will in this case be called "George" and "Kevin".
In 2016, the number of deaths in Chicago caused by homicides increased by nearly 60% with 753 people killed this past year. The city being the home of about 2,7 million people, is never quiet when it comes to criminality. Many police officers is exposed to serious danger on a daily basis, and it is not to be hidden that a number of officers lose their lives in their work.
"George" being an African American having experienced racism from police in his past, decided to contribute to be a part of the solution on this issue when deciding to become an officer. "Kevin" found purpose in helping others and loves his job where he gets to "fix things that he hates”.
They were kind in answering many questions from us. Below you can read some of the questions and answers. Q stands for question and A is for answer.
Questions and answers for “Kevin”
Q: What do you feel is the most difficult thing about working in Chicago?
A:The most difficult thing about working in Chicago is changing the culture of racism, and helping others see that african American people are not a lost people. There are certain subcultures that have embraced crime and violence due to a lack of education, opportunities, and resources.
Q: What do you think could have been done to get rid of unnecessary police violence?
A: Education about different cultures will help prevent unnecessary use of force, when there is a lack of empathy due to ignorance perpetuated by the media many times you will see officers overreact. The dangerous gang members are not the majority, there is no need to treat regular everyday citizens with such caution. But when you believe all African American males with certain hairstyles or style of dress are in a gang and dangerous, it makes you deal with people improperly.
Q:How do you feel being pictured as the bad guy by the media? How do you think the mistrust in the police can be fixed? What kinds of criminals do you face on a normal work day?
A:It’s frustrating being pictured this way, but it’s not factual. We are working on the solutions, many of the programs that I am a part of are designed to do just that. One of the biggest challenges that I face is convincing white officers to get involved with activities with the youth where they work. Many of them assume all the kids are bad. I know better. Most of the criminals we face are gang related, low level drug offenders. However many of the officers without empathy lock up anyone in poverty stricken areas for anything petty that they can find. This causes mistrust and frustration as well for the community because if you go to a white neighborhood those types of same activities are being conducted but not enforced.
Q:Hello, why do you think Chicago is one of the most violent cities in the US?
A:This is a good question, I am no authority on the topic, however Chicago is one of the most segregated cities in the US. I believe it also causes separation for employment opportunities. Many of the union, government, or municipal jobs which allow for a basic middle class family to survive had been restricted to a certain group of people. Years of frustration and criminalization of the African American male with over Policing of the black community leaves men with criminal records and no hope for employment. Which usually leads to illegal drug sales or other criminal activity to survive. These are dangerous and violent paths.
Q:Hello! After reading about all the shooting incidents in Chicago we wondered if the police training has to go through a reform in order to reduce the shootings.
A: We are changing the policies and requiring more training yearly. It’s amazing to me that some officers are upset about that. I read things that break my heart on social media, white officers saying things that make me angry, As if it is a bad idea to treat people like people.
Questions and answers for “George”
A: Do you agree with the Black Lives Matter protestors? Or do you view them differently because you are a police officer?
B: I do not view anyone differently because of my role as a Chicago Police Officer. In fact, every police officer that I work with is so much more than their badge. My coworkers – or better yet, my extended family – are mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, and a combination of their previous professional experiences that they bring to the job before they put the uniform on.
Specifically, with regard to the Black Lives Matter movement, I have taken an oath, both as a soldier and as a police officer, to defend the laws and the Constitution of the United States. I respect the movement’s freedom of speech and freedom of assembly rights. I respect the conversation about race in America. More importantly, I respect folks of all ages and all backgrounds coming together for a common purpose.
However, if I am to be completely honest, I have never been a “protestor.” I have always preferred to immerse myself in the challenges of the day, including enlisting in the military after America’s announcement of the “Surge into Iraq,” teaching and living on the Southside of Chicago during the city’s teacher union strike and the largest school closure in the history of American public education, and graduating from the Chicago Police Academy during the same summer as the protests in Ferguson, Missouri. So, no matter what the subject matter is concerning any protest, I prefer to roll up my sleeves and make change from the “inside.”
Q: What do you feel is the most difficult thing about working in Chicago? How do you find the motivation?
A: The most difficult aspect of working in Chicago is dealing with a convoluted bureaucracy across government, business, and nonprofit sectors. There is so much that can be done that isn’t, including: (1) establishing better drug treatment programs for addiction, (2) addressing the systemic gaps in land use strategy and vacant housing in the city, and (3) making private investments in our toughest neighborhoods.
Q:I am wondering if you have encountered any near death experiences? If so, is there a lot of them?
A: As a police officer, yes, I have encountered near death experiences. I have been on the same street while citizens have illegally discharged a firearm. I have been the first officer on scene for at least four homicides while working in one of Chicago’s toughest neighborhoods over a two-year time period. Plus, my job is to respond to emergency calls for service. As a result, it is my job to show up and to solve problems during the worst moments of someone’s life, often multiple times per night.
Q: Hello, why do you think Chicago is one of the most violent cities in the US?
A: I think Chicago is one of the most violent cities in America for a number of reasons. First, the city is extremely segregated and we have entire neighborhoods that are severely impoverished. So, it’s tough for folks to afford a quality standard of living for themselves and their families. Additionally, there is an easy access to illegal weapons. Social media spurs conflict. Plus, drug addiction leads to drug sales and gangs fight over drug sales.
Those are just a few issues that have led us to where we are today.
Q: Hello! After reading about all the shooting incidents in Chicago we wondered if the police training has to go through a reform in order to reduce the shootings?
A:I believe that CPD firearms training is adequate. I also believe that it can be better. However, the use of your word “all” seems to be somewhat exaggerated in your question. Specifically, in 2016, there were 25 police-involved shootings, including 11 deaths and 14 injuries. Nearly all of them involved in armed offender. Additionally, CPD recovered 8,300 illegal guns in 2016. Every single one of those 8,300 gun recoveries could have been an armed conflict that resulted in a police-involved shooting. To put that in perspective, there are 8,760 hours in a year. That means that the Chicago Police Department recovered almost one illegal firearm an hour for all of 2016.