Weis’ Tunnel vision: Looking forward only will doom CPD to repeat past mistakes

There are significant differences in the way the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Chicago Police interact with the world.  The FBI swoops into and out of communities with little to no consideration of the consequences to the community/FBI relations.  This is the exact opposite to how an urban policing agency operates.  An urban policing agency should always keep in mind how their activities effect the relation between the community and their agency.  To do so, there must be an understanding of the history between the agency and the communities they serve.  Judging from Weis’ actions and words thus far, it is clear he does not take into consideration the particular history of Chicago police community relations when making decisions.  And he has made few if any efforts to learn this history while he has been on the job.

Since the day Daley announced that Weis was as his choice for superintendent, sources within the department have been critical of his lack of knowledge of policing.  Their major concern was whom on earth was Weis going to listen to in making his decisions.  Long time police officers?  If so, then is an outsider really running the department or is he just a figurehead listening to those insiders with knowledge of how to run the department?  Initially, I brushed this off as sour grapes, but Weis’ decisions to arm officers with the M4 assault rifle and his revival of another gang suppression squad doomed to go off the reservation soon are proof that Weis’ tenure will ultimately produce nothing more than the traditional oppressive Chicago style policing.

As the youth from the Southwest Youth Collaborative and other various groups from across the city protest the deployment of the M4 assault rifle, Weis seems to be oblivious when it comes to understanding why youth of color would be worried about having cops with assault rifles in their community.  This obliviousness can only be attributed to a complete lack of understanding of the routine abuse that has taken place at the hands of police officers in these communities.  This can be attributed to his lack of local policing experience, but cannot be tolerated when Weis makes a decision about deploying assault rifles on the streets of Chicago without ever seeking community input.  When the community does rise up in protest, Weis cannot understand their experiences and thus the basis for the community reaction.

It certainly seems from Weis’ actions and words involving the deployment of the M4 that for him at least, there is no historical memory of the Chicago Police Department and the communities they serve. It’s as if policing in Chicago started the first day he took the job.  This is a scary proposition because thoughtful decisions cannot be made in a vacuum but must always be made with an understanding of the context of the situation.  No Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department can make decisions about how to move the department forward without understanding the mistakes the department has made in the past.  Weis could not have possibly taken the time to do this considering his decision to deploy the M4 came on his 84th day on the job, counting weekends!  His decision to revive the Special Operation Section (SOS) street unit in the new Mobile Strike Force came on Weis’ 250th day on the job.

Author: Tracy SiskaTracy Siska is the Founder and Executive Director of the Chicago Justice Project.
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