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Recess Is Back at Gale, Plus a New Security Guard and More Police, For Now

By Linze Rice | June 5, 2015 2:54pm | Updated on June 8, 2015 8:39am
 Cmdr. Roberto Nieves of the Rogers Park Police District met with parents, staff and students at Gale Elementary Friday to talk about what CPD was going to do to help Gale resume recess with added security protection.
Cmdr. Roberto Nieves of the Rogers Park Police District met with parents, staff and students at Gale Elementary Friday to talk about what CPD was going to do to help Gale resume recess with added security protection.
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DNAinfo/Linze Rice

ROGERS PARK —Emotions were high at an emergency parent safety meeting at Gale Elementary School Friday. 

"I want to know if police will be on the corners, keeping an eye out while our babies are playing on the playground," one parent said with tears in her eyes.

Chicago Public Schools officials and officers from the Rogers Park Police District, including new Cmdr. Roberto Nieves and CPS School Safety Sgt. Luis Gaytan, were on hand to field questions about how the school and police department will implement a plan that allows Gale students to resume outdoor recess until the end of the school year on June 19.

CPS said they will be adding one additional full-time security staff to help their current detail, which is largely focused inside, said Jadine Chou, CPS Chief of Safety and Security, saying it was an "extra pair of eyes and ears." The guard will be stationed at the school until June 19.

Nieves said extra resources would be deployed to parts of Howard, Marshfield and Ashland avenues, adding his team "never has less than three squad cars" between Howard and Jonquil Avenues.

"We're trying to do the best we can with the resources we have," Nieves said. "If I could stop every single crime I wouldn't be here, I'd be accepting a Nobel Peace Prize somewhere."

A squad car sits in front of Gale Elementary School in Rogers Park in the days after a shooting left a 22-year-old man in critical condition near the school. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]

In a statement from CPS Thursday, officials said the recess bell would ring once again at Gale Elementary School after a shooting nearby Monday caused its principal to cancel all outdoor recreation time for the remainder of the year.

CPS officials also cleared up some confusion about the school's security cameras. Gale's Principal Cassandra Washington said Wednesday that the cameras were not working properly. Friday, CPS officials said the cameras are functional and caught the shooting on tape — but that Washington did not have access to the cameras' footage.

Lauren Huffman, a CPS spokeswoman, said CPS has "worked with the principal to make sure she currently has access" to the security footage, an issue Washington said many parents expressed concern over. CPS would not publicly comment on why Washington was unable to view the footage earlier.

Mixed Reactions from Residents

Most residents at the meeting said they were glad to know there would be additional security so their children could have recess again.

One dissenter, James Crockett, who said he mentors local young men into living clean lives, said he worried that police were focusing on the wrong areas when adding patrols near the school. While Howard is usually pretty safe, he said, other streets like Jonquil need more attention. His sentiments were applauded by other residents in attendance.

Rhonda Hartwell, wife of Gale LSC member Josh Hartwell, asked O'Neil during the meeting why Rogers Park residents had to wait until June 30 for a public safety forum with Ald. Joe Moore (49th), who was not in attendance. The shooting occurred June 1.

Moore's Chief of Staff Kevin O'Neil said the alderman was "regretful" he was out of town, drawing the ire of many in attendance.Pastor Robert Rand agreed with Hartwell, saying he feared the community would have to "wait until another kid dies before [Moore] shows up."

In Search of a Long-Term Solution

Washington said the current safety plan was only "short-term" — the additional security guard will only around until the end of the school year — and her staff would soon recruit parents to help make a sustainable safety plan that doesn't sacrifice the childrens' recess. 

Sgt. Gaytan ageed, saying "it takes a village" to raise a child, and that if parents see known criminals near the school, they have a responsibility to say something. 

"I was the first one on the scene [Monday], and there were about 60-70 community members standing out there who knew that individual," he said. "They should be saying, 'Hey, don't be out by the school.'"

Despite the week's drama, all in attendance who spoke praised Washington's leadership and response to the shooting. 

For Washington, who had to end the meeting after about 45 minutes to get ready for the school's 8th grade dance, emphasized the need to collaborate: "We can't be angry at each other if everything is going to work," she said. 

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