CAPSThis FOIA is seeking CAPS (Chicago’s Alternative Policing Strategy) data from the Chicago Police Department (CDP).

Both Superintendent Brown and Mayor Lightfoot has espoused support for community policing so there is every reason to believe that the program will see a resurgence in Chicago.

There is an intense mythology that has been built up around the CAPS program. The program had the good fortune to be correlated strongly with a significant drop in Chicago from the early/mid 1990s through 2014. I say correlation because the is no empirical evidence that CAPS had any significant role in contributing to the drop in crime Chicago experienced.

The major issue is that during this time there was somewhere around 19,000 policing agencies in America and at the same time Chicago experienced its drop in crime so did cities and states around the country. All reasonably at the same time and reasonably in the same percentages given some regional differences. Now, every two bit academic evaluating programs in the cities they live and work suddenly found significant results for the programs and policies of their local police department.

Simply impossible. The drop in crime almost certainly had to be caused by demographic and other shits in American. That is the only way the declines could be so universal.

This has not stopped police chiefs life Brown and reformers like Mayor Lightfoot to attributing the drops in crime to community policing.

In Chicago, it is even more problematic because community policing as original designed by community leaders (which is where it came from in Chicago) was much more focused on community empowerment and less about being centrally focused on policing. Academics at UIC and Northwestern redesigned the community driven version and Chicago got a policing program. Daley, and his academic collaborators were much more interested in empowering police then they were communities.

There is little doubting that CAPS provided a vehicle for citizens to feel as if they were empowered and had a role in saying how their communities were policed. This is not without its benefits. It is just better when they actually have the power they think they do.

One academic wrote about community policing in general as “cops getting a warrant from the community to do what they were going to do anyways”. Sadly, he is correct in many circumstances.

An alderman that is now long gone from the city council and off to greener pastures once told me that “CAPS is Mayor Daley’s re-election campaign and nothing more”.

Both quotes are true and devastating to the realities of CAPS in Chicago.

The reality is that CAPS was set up to fail from the start. If you are going to have a central way of policing it cannot be relegated to a program or an office. It must be infused in to everything the department is and does. Clearly with all the corruption and abuse at the hands of Chicago Police officers clearly community policing was not the CPD’s way of policing.

So, to prepare for the second coming of CAPS we figured it would be a good idea to examine for ourselves the real numbers associated with community policing in Chicago. I will tell you a secret. They are manipulated to show you something Daley wanted you to see. It contributed significantly to building the mythology behind the program. We are going to demystify it a bit by opening up this data.

To:                   Chicago Police Department

Subject:            Documents related to CAPS or Chicago’s Alternative Police Strategy

In accordance with Definitions and Instructions below and the Illinois Freedom of Information Act, 5 ILCS 140 et seq, I request that You provide the following public records: 

For the years of 1990-2019, records sufficient to show the following:

  1. Total number of Districts within the Chicago Police Department by year
  1. Total number of Beats in the Chicago Police Department by year
  1. Total number of CAPS Beat Meetings held by the Chicago Police Department by year
  1. Total number of CAPS Beat Meetings held for each beat, by year
  1. Total attendance at CAPS Beat Meetings by year
  1. Total attendance at CAPS Beat Meetings per Beat, by year
  1. Total number of youths who participated in a school-based program, by year
  1. Total number of citizens who participated in a volunteer-led block club activity, by year
  1. A list of all types or categories of records currently under Your control relating in any way to the Search, as provided in 5 ILCS 140/5.
  1. A description of the manner in which public records stored by means of electronic data processing may be obtained from You (in a form comprehensible to persons lacking knowledge of computer language or printout format), as provided in 5 ILCS 140/5.
  1. Records sufficient to show Your efforts to locate and produce the records requested in FOIAs 1-10 above. This should include:
  2. Where you searched for responsive Records and Documents.
  3. Who searched for responsive Records and Documents.
  4. Who was requested to produce responsive Records and Documents.
  5. The identity of any Records and Documents that were located but not produced for any reason.

“Any,” “all,” “any/all,” “any or all,” “any and all,” “and,” “or,” and “and/or” are always to be interpreted inclusively to the greatest extent legally permitted.

“Document” and/or “Documents” means any documents or electronically stored information of any kind—including writings, drawings, graphs, charts, photographs, video recordings, sound recordings, images, databases, and other data or data compilations—stored in any medium from which information can be obtained either directly or, if necessary, after translation by the responding party into a reasonably usable form.

District” means the defined geographic space within the City of Chicago that is overseen by a commander, their staff, and assigned officers. Currently the Chicago Police Department has 22 districts including 1-12, 14-20, 22, 24, 25.  We use this term in the same manner as the Chicago Police Department.

“CAPS” means Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy, or community policing strategies generally, and should be interpreted inclusively to encompass all such policies. 

“Beat Meeting” means regular (often monthly) meetings, held on all the beats in the city, where police and community residents meet to exchange information about conditions in the neighborhood, identify crime and disorder problems, and develop strategies to combat those problems

“Beats” means defined geographic spaces within each Chicago Police District.  We use this term in the same manner as the Chicago Police Department.

“You” or “Your” means the Chicago Police Department, and any or all attorneys, employees, officers, directors, bureaus, offices, agents, divisions or subdivisions of same.

If the agency withholds any document or information pertinent to the requests made herein, please identify the document or information in as much detail as is possible, and detail in specific language why each document or piece of information is being withheld.

If any information requested herein is withheld on the basis of a claim of privilege or other protection as material prepared in anticipation of litigation or trial, then that claim shall be made expressly in a writing that describes the nature of the Documents, Communications, or Things not produced or disclosed in a manner that will enable us to assess the applicability of the privilege or protection. With regard to each claim of privilege or protection, the following information should be provided in the response or the objection:

(a) the type of Document, e.g., letter or memorandum;

(b) general subject matter of the Document;

(c) the date of the Document;

(d) such other information as is sufficient to identify the Document for a subpoena duces tecum, including, where appropriate, the author, addressee, and any other recipient of the Document, and, where not apparent, the relationship of the author, addressee, and any other recipient to each other; and

(e) the nature of the privilege or protection;

(f) if applicable, the litigation or trial of which he document was created in anticipation.

If any Document identified herein has been lost, discarded, or destroyed, each such Document should be identified as completely as possible, including as to each such Document, its date, general nature (e.g., letter, memorandum, telegram, telex, photograph, computer printout), subject matter, each author or originator, each person indicated as an addressee or copy recipient, and its former custodian(s). In addition, as to each such Document, the following information shall be supplied:

(a) date of disposal, loss, or destruction;

(b) manner of disposal, loss, or destruction;

(c) reason for disposal or destruction, or any explanation of loss;

(d) persons authorizing the disposal or destruction;

(e) persons having knowledge of the disposal, destruction, or loss; and

(f) persons who destroyed, lost, or disposed or the Document or Thing.

I look forward to hearing from you in writing within five working days, as required by the Act 5 ILCS 140(3).  Please direct all questions or responses to this FOIA request to this email address by responding to this email. I can be reached at


1_total_districts_by_year: 1_total_districts_by_year

2_total_beats_by_year: 2_total_beats_by_year

3_caps_beat_meetings_by_year: 3_caps_beat_meetings_by_year

4_caps_beat_meetings_by_beat_by_year: 4_caps_beat_meetings_by_beat_by_year

5_caps_beat_meeting_attendance_by_year: 5_caps_beat_meeting_attendance_by_year

6_caps_beat_meeting_attendance_by_beat_by_year: 6_caps_beat_meeting_attendance_by_beat_by_year

Forms_Retention_Schedule_(002): Forms_Retention_Schedule_(002)

P580020_Siska_Ltr: P580020_Siska_Ltr

Tracy has nearly two decades of experience researching and working within criminal justice systems. When Tracy began pursuing a career dedicate to system reform, he found that no single organization existed to promote evidence-based discussions among law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve. Recognizing that citizens in Chicago deserved the right to demand transparency in their criminal justice system, Siska established the Chicago Justice Project. He received his Master of Arts degree in Criminal Justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Recommended Articles

Chicago Justice Podcast

This is our Chicago Justice Podcast that covers crime, violence, and justice issues in Chicago. We will feature deep dives in to justice system data, interview with researchers and justice system reform advocates, as well as evaluations of justice system practices.

Subscribe To CJP's Latest Updates

Sign up today for insider details about our advocacy & litigation campaigns!


You can unsubscribe at any time. We will never sell or share your information.