The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

Supt. Says Police Stops Are Up, But 'Should Never' Approach Previous Levels

By Patty Wetli | April 29, 2016 7:55am
 New Police Supt. Eddie Johnson fielded questions at a 33rd Ward town hall meeting.
New Police Supt. Eddie Johnson fielded questions at a 33rd Ward town hall meeting.
View Full Caption
DNAinfo/Patty Wetli

IRVING PARK — Police stops, down 90 percent earlier in 2016, are creeping back up as officers become more familiar with new procedures, Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson told attendees at a town hall hosted Thursday night by Ald. Deb Mell (33rd).

In the wake of numerous shootings in the area, the decrease in stops has been a cause for concern at recent CAPS and public safety meetings. The issue was raised again Thursday, as Johnson, who was sworn in as the city's top cop just two weeks ago, fielded questions from residents.

Neighbors also pointedly asked why the American Civil Liberties Union has been involved with Chicago policing since the advocacy group weighed in on the department's new street stop policies?

"The ACLU wants to make sure CPD is stopping people for the right reasons," Johnson said.

The superintendent explained that previous "contact cards," filled out during investigatory stops, were the size of index cards. A "cumbersome" new form, introduced Jan. 1 after an agreement was reached with the ACLU, was "double-sided and a lot longer," he said.

Officers were spending 25 minutes filling out the form instead of the five minutes it took to complete a contact card, and the number of recorded stops plummeted, Johnson said.

The form has since been simplified, officers have become more accustomed to the process and as a result, stops are on the rise, according to the superintendent.

But to be clear, Johnson said, "The numbers we had for contact cards, we should never get to that again. We were stopping people inappropriately."

The superintendent took on a pair of other hot-button issues frequently broached at CAPS meetings: The shifting of resources from North Side neighborhoods to the South and West Sides, and the lack of response from 911.

"We're not taking any of your police officers," Johnson insisted.

"We never take your district resources and move them around," he said, but he did acknowledge that "ancillary resources are moved around."

Regarding 911, Johnson pointed out that the 911 system doesn't fall under the police department but is run by the Office of Emergency Management and Communications, which has its own criteria for dispatching resources.

But "we come right out" when 911 receives a report of violence "in progress," he said.

Johnson added that there are occasions when covert officers — "in vehicles you can't identify" — respond to calls. In those instances, officers don't identify themselves as such, and residents would be unaware that police had arrived at the scene.

Other topics Johnson weighed in on:

• Crisis intervention training — in which officers learn how to handle situations involving individuals with mental health issues — is a priority for the department, Johnson said.

According to the superintendent, a first-responder unit staffed with officers certified in crisis intervention will be assigned to all shifts.

• By June, "every marked squad car you see on patrol" will be equipped with a stun gun.

• Though Johnson remained tight-lipped on policing strategy come summer — "I really don't like to give our playbook out" — he would say that more bike and foot patrols will be added, as well as more park patrols.

"In order to move forward ... you have to first identify your failings," the superintendent said.

• Among mistakes made by the department was the downsizing of the community policing program, he said.

"We are looking at ways to reinvigorate" the program, Johnson said, though he wasn't prepared to offer a timeline beyond "sooner than later."

"We, CPD, we will do a better job of keeping the community informed of what we're doing," he said.

In the spirit of strengthening ties between residents and the police department, Johnson even went so far as to give out the direct phone number to his office (not his home, he emphasized): 312-745-6100.

"If you have a question, I don't want you wondering things," Johnson said. "I do call people back."

For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: