When read this latest attempt by the CPD / City to garner control of the Chicago’s youth by inflicting financial penalties on parents I thought, wow, wasn’t CAPS supposed to solve the problem over a decade ago? The problem of wayward youth wandering Chicago’s streets late at night with nothing to do but cause trouble? If so, why hasn’t it? Daley, being one of the program’s major supporters, should have an answer for this question.
Daley introduced CAPS and oversaw its construction. If these hundreds of millions of dollars spent on this program haven’t produced results, we have a clear target for the blame. He did not inherit the program from another politician; in fact he has claimed great successes with the program. I guess it never was a goal to find a way to get the youth to not commit crime by providing them real alternatives to gang life for these young people to turn to in hopes of earning a real livable wage. Has CAPS been the complete failure some in Chicago said it would be?
Now, when I say failure I mean it has not forged a bond between community residents and the police. Daley claims it has not helped individual random beats close drug houses and clean up some corners. But we did not invest hundreds of millions of dollars to have these sporadic and short term successes. To understand the great failure CAPS has been from a community safety perspective, we need to understand what an astounding success CAPS has been in helping Daley aid development and gentrification of the city. We need to look at a few of the major structural issues CAPS was never able to address.
1. The bulk of the CPD never bought into the idea of dealing with community members as partners. In policing literature you will find academics who study community policing, the few not receiving financing from the various police agencies, talk about how community policing is nothing more than the police obtaining a warrant from the community to conduct operations in the same fashion they would have originally. This clearly delineates a line of communication and power that is one dimensional, from the CPD to the community. True partnerships are formed by mutually powerful entities that respect what each side brings to the table. For the majority of the CPD this was never the case, and never was going to be. The CPD failed to understand that a complete culture change within the CPD would have to occur for community policing to have a change at succeeding. This would only occur if the CPD moved away from hiring the undereducated physically strong but mentally weak individuals they have been hiring for decades. They would need to move towards a more socially conscious social worker type of employee one more oriented towards resolving conflicts, cooperatively rather than authoritatively.
2. Youth in this City were never brought into the process in a meaningful way and really were only brought into the process in small ways as an after thought. The City, CPD, and academics involved in creating CAPS, never wanted to engage the gangs in any type of dialogue that might have resulted in legitimizing their existence. It is quite obvious that none of the architects of this program had a desire to deal with the gang problem head on. They also had no experience dealing with individuals that had been in gangs or currently were in gangs, unless they were putting them in jail. This failure doomed CAPS from the outset of ever accomplishing what the community proponents wished the program would. Daley, for his part feared an competing organization of minority youth in his city that was not under his control, so he continued the long cycle of criminalizing generations of minority youth rather than engage them in discourse that could have led to a legitimatization of their complaints.
3. Gentrification What CAPS succeeded in doing was implant within minority communities a tool to speed up the gentrification of urban neighborhoods. Once a neighborhood that was unstabilized became stabilized remarkable improvements to the neighborhood started to occur. Their sidewalks started to get repaired and their streets redone. For longtime neighborhood residents who thought this was good thing, they were wrong. In fact, it was always within weeks of repairs that buildings would start coming down and residents would then realize the bad news, they could no longer afford the neighborhood and would be forced to move without enjoying the fruits of CAPS, Arguably they were never meant to enjoy them in the first place. Now, for some this change occurred in either faster or slower paces. For Lawndale, it was really slow, but boy it is happening now.
Community Based Proponents original vision:
The original proponents of community policing in Chicago envisioned the program as a community empowerment tool, one that would empower communities to root out all the entities affecting their communities, including corrupt politicians. This accountability to residents was one aspect of the proponents’ plan that Daley did not like and could not live with. In the end Daley was very efficient at removing organizations he did not like from participating in the CAPS program. The original proponents of community policing in Chicago were all outspoken critics of the City, CPD, and the Daley administration.
Daley was forced to involve these organizations in the original set of contractors involved with CAPS; however, when it came time to reauthorize those contracts Daley tried to slip a fast one past his critics. Each contract had a silencing agreement that stated that the receiving organization could not grant any media interviews or speak negatively about the CAPS program or on any other topic involving the City. (One of our dearest and newest crime reporters in Chicago has also signed a contract with the City with such an agreement in it, any guess who, check back next week and you can read all about it) This forced the original proponents from the CAPS program for good and allowed Daley to turn the program into a private political operation. Any one who wants more info about CAPS should really check out Alysia Tates article from 2000 about CAPS in the Chicago Reporter.