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EXCLUSIVE: Read McCarthy's Report on 'Listening Tour' Shelved By City Hall

By  Paul Biasco and Mark Konkol | December 14, 2015 6:17am | Updated on December 14, 2015 2:31pm

 Former Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy conducted a summer listening tour in Chicago's neighborhoods to reassess the Police Department's strategy.
Former Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy conducted a summer listening tour in Chicago's neighborhoods to reassess the Police Department's strategy.
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CHICAGO — Six months ago, recently ousted Police Supt. Garry McCarthy headed into Chicago's neighborhoods as part of a so-called "listening tour" aimed at coming up with ways to improve communication between the Chicago Police Department and community leaders.

Reporters were banned from the highly publicized tour, a move city officials said would allow a free-flowing discussion between community leaders and others vested in the community over how to deal with the city's crime.

Chicagoans never heard back from McCarthy, but that's not because their advice fell on deaf ears. 

Indeed, the top cop produced a 20-page report complete with a PowerPoint presentation that quietly got shelved by City Hall last month on the day McCarthy planned to take the proposal back to the neighborhood leaders he met with over the summer.

On Dec. 1, McCarthy got fired by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who said McCarthy had become a "distraction" after the release of dashcam video showing a police officer shoot and kill 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

DNAinfo Chicago obtained a copy of the draft report that focuses heavily on improving transparency in the Police Department and the need to preserve the public's trust, even if that means going against the old ways of withholding information.

Some of the communication strategies already appear to have been rolled out by the Emanuel administration.

On Wednesday, the mayor told reporters the old way of giving information to the public — or not providing information — needs to change.

"Holding that video, while we were protecting the integrity of the investigation without compromising it, clearly building up distrust rather than build trust, clearly built up suspicions rather than alleviate those suspicions," Emanuel said Wednesday.

According to McCarthy's previously unreleased report, the Police Department has failed to communicate with the public and media quickly enough, resulting in inaccurate narratives when providing information about highly charged incidents.

"In the interim, the media fills the silence with often inaccurate statements from unofficial sources [bargaining-unit representatives, e.g.] or outright falsehoods from 'man on the street' interviews," McCarthy's report states.

The Police Department's decision to withhold information about the shooting death of Laquan — including the dashcam video — appears to be a fitting example.

On the night Jason Van Dyke shot McDonald 16 times those "bargaining-unit representatives," jargon for the Police Union spokesmen, got ahead of the story and told reporters that the 17-year-old lunged at police, knife in hand.

In that case, McCarthy recognized this public relations mistake of letting the police union control the message in high-profile cases and, according to his report, had planned to implement fixes.

"While there are many important and legitimate law enforcement reasons to be circumspect with regard to the release of information e.g., integrity of investigations, privacy rights, pending prosecution or litigation, etc., open communication and transparency must be maintained," McCarthy's report states.

The report also points to the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., which led to a complete lack of trust between police and residents in the town where Michael Brown was killed by a police officer last year.

"Lesson learned," the report from the listening tour states in regards to Ferguson.

"A lack of information and transparency on the part of law enforcement agencies breeds distrust and allows misinformation to fill the vacuum," the report notes.

Emanuel, who commissioned a task force on police accountability, has said he won't wait to improve how the public receives information. It's unclear if recommendations in McCarthy's report are part of that plan.

McCarthy's listening tour report found that people wanted to increase the number of chances for positive interactions between residents and police officers.

"There was acknowledgment from all sides that a lack of exposure only serves to solidify any existing divide between police and community residents," the report states.

Garry McCarthy Listening Tour

A number of strategies raised in the report include revitalizing the community policing strategy, also known as CAPS, which one police commander called "dead" earlier this year.

Other community-centered strategies include teaching youths about the dangers of a "code of silence," and starting up a police/citizen academy, youth forums, domestic awareness programs, parent patrols, neighborhood youth corps and block club training.

The Police Department, if it implements the strategy, intends to expand its justice education efforts in public schools. The program, where staff from the police academy teach the justice system, is currently in only a few of Chicago's public schools.

The report also points to technology and the role the Police Department hopes it will play in helping police and residents communicate.

The plan is to increase the use of district-level Twitter accounts and private social networks such as Nextdoor to engage in direct communication with the community.

The Police Department previously rolled out district-level Twitter accounts, but they vary greatly in the amount of use and followers by district.

The Shakespeare District's account is highly active, posting biweekly police statistics, crime updates and has a relatively strong following of 2,852 people.

The Central District's account, by contrast, has just 110 followers and last Tweeted on March 15, 2014 — "It’s official! Spring has arrived in Central District! Observers will see plenty o’ green at the St. Pat’s parade at 12 on Columbus. Be safe."

Additional measures suggested include implementing a sports program in each district for youths to build positive relationships between police officers and the community.

The Police Department recently ran a pilot of the program in the Englewood District, partnering with "Get IN Chicago" to form the Englewood Police Youth Baseball League.

Another pilot the Police Department plans to expand is a program that puts the families of homicide victims in touch with third-party service providers to assist them in the aftermath of a murder.

The strategy praises the use of body cameras, CompStat (the statistics-based policing strategy brought to Chicago by McCarthy) and an accreditation process the Police Department is undergoing.

"Both the revitalization of the Community Policing Section and the development of comprehensive policy are simply the first steps in securing the Department's vision for community policing," the report states.

With McCarthy out of the picture, it is unclear what will happen to the CompStat method of policing.

If the mayor and interim superintendent consider McCarthy's community relations strategy moving forward, it's clear that he had planned to continue heavily emphasizing the use of the program, albeit in more decentralized format.

"In truth, the community policing philosophy must permeate the entire organization," the report states. "A curriculum based on the revised strategy will be developed, and department-wide training will be presented to ALL Department members."

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