CHICAGO — Hoping to stave off a potentially violent holiday weekend, community groups and volunteers on the South and West sides will patrol neighborhood streets after the city's police union asked officers to refuse Labor Day weekend overtime.
Fraternal Order of Police boss Dean Angelo issued a memo to officers in July asking them to refuse Labor Day overtime. Refusing the overtime would show that the department is undermanned and that officers are overworked, Angelo said.
But with the rate of gun violence surging in Chicago — especially in August, the deadliest month in two decades — the group Black Star Project decided they had to take matters into their own hands this weekend.
Phillip Jackson, executive director of the Black Star Project, said police refusing to work this weekend could make the holiday weekend more like "The Purge," a horror film where Americans have a holiday where violence is legally permitted.
Instead, Jackson's group is calling for a "community peace surge," where volunteers will effectively fill the void for the officers who decided to not work the weekend.
"We intend to counter this pre-planned Purge with our own community peace surge of good men and woman stepping up to make our communities clean and safe," Jackson said in a statement announcing the action.
But the Chicago Police Department and the police union contend there is no "void" to fill, that regular patrols on Chicago streets will go on as normal.
"I think we're ready to roll," Karen Konow, commander for the department's vice and forfeiture unit, said at a Friday press conference. "We are 100 percent prepared and ready for the weekend."
Angelo said the department was never at risk of dangerously low levels of patrol officers for the weekend. He said he believes the department when it said it has enough officers to staff the long weekend, but added that he does not have access to the number of officers working any given weekend.
"We assumed the department would always be deploying enough man power," Angelo said. "There [are] so many avenues they can take to make sure they're covered."
Angelo said he did not know if the department had to go out of its way to find officers to work this weekend, but typically they can refuse day off requests, force shifts or offer "buy backs," where the department essentially makes bids to sergeants and other police brass until they're financially motivated to work.
A police spokesman didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on whether officer negotiations were needed to adequately staff the weekend.
Though the group is discouraged by the police union's call for officers to stay home for the weekend, Fisher said they are more interested in keeping the peace than making a political statement.
"Their job is to protect and serve the community. It just doesn't sit well with me," Fisher said of the union's advise to officers. "[But] the problem is not just police officers."
Black Star Project has enlisted other activist groups, block clubs, community groups and local businesses in the effort, said Eddie Fisher II, an organizer with Black Star Project.
The groups, which includes Justice Or Else, 10,000 Fearless and New Era Chicago among others, are encouraged to "take over" their block by throwing parties, barbecues or just sitting on the corner.
"Instead of pandering to politicians [to solve the problem], we decided to stand up and do something ourselves," Fisher said. "We're asking everyone to be visible in their neighborhood."
The "surge" will be concentrated in 10 neighborhoods on the South and West sides, including Englewood, Austin, South Shore, Auburn Gresham, Roseland, Garfield Park and Chatham.
Fisher said a number of businesses, including some barber shops, are getting into the action by offering free hair cuts to young people.
Herb Howard, project manager with Community Peace Surge, told reporters Friday that people in the community needs to get back to respecting their elders.
"When I talk to the elders in the community, they say that can't reach the young people," Howard said. "It's a good thing some young people are involved in cleaning up their communities. If you can't make it, at least try to clean up in front and back of your homes."
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: