Chicago PD launches online tool to measure trust, sense of safety in neighborhoods
The Chicago Police Sentiment Dashboard lets Chicagoans rate each of its 22 patrol districts on how residents view police in those areas
By Jeremy Gorner
CHICAGO — At a time when the Chicago Police Department and law enforcement across the country have struggled to win the trust of Black Americans, department leaders on Thursday announced a new online tool to gauge the public’s feelings about its officers.
The so-called Chicago Police Sentiment Dashboard went live on the department’s website Thursday morning, and it gives Chicagoans the option of filling out surveys that rate each of its 22 patrol districts on how its residents view the police in those areas. The current data on each district shows two average scores — one based on the level of trust and the other on level of safety — from surveys over the last three years of more than 63,000 Chicagoans, officials said.
According to data released by the department, residents with the lowest levels of trust in Chicago police officers and safety in their neighborhoods are from districts on the city’s South and West sides, both of which have high Black populations.
In terms of community trust in the police, the data confirms one of the long-standing criticisms of the department as it goes through a federally mandated consent decree to improve the way its officers are trained, how they’re supervised and how they treat citizens.
Mecole Jordan-McBride, who has led the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability, a coalition of neighborhood groups that has offered proposals to city officials about how to improve Chicago’s ploice force, said she wasn’t surprised it showed a low level of trust of the department in Black neighborhoods.
But she’s hopeful the new data program will help the department better understand how residents in such communities are treated by the police and how that relationship can be strengthened.
“I think that there’s been a long history of distrust particularly ... between communities of color and the Chicago Police Department. And it shows. This reflects that,” Jordan, now the advocacy director of the Policing Project at New York University’s School of Law, said of Thursday’s data. “I think that if there is a ray of hope is that CPD releasing this data on their dashboard hopefully allows them to take ownership of what has been reported, and that them taking ownership and being transparent about what community members are saying and the disparities between communities of color and white communities will prompt them to take even more (actions) to correct this.”
The same South and West side districts seeing lower police trust levels than largely white districts on the North and Northwest sides also saw more concerns about safety. South and West side districts have more violent crime than the rest of the city.
Chicago police Cmdr. Angel Novalez, of the department’s community policing office, said the goal of the data is to not only help police better engage residents in the neighborhoods but also determine where to apply crime-fighting strategies if the residents express concerns about their safety.
He said the data gives the department an idea about whether those concerns align “with our efforts” in coming up with ideas to try and reduce crime and win the hearts and minds of residents.
“We may be trying things with all good intentions and they may not be as (effective) because it may not be what the public is looking for,” said Novalez. “A lot of times in law enforcement we concentrate on law enforcement, and it’s a very small segment of society that’s just as involved. We want to ensure that those silent voices, that silent majority, has an opportunity to let us know how they’re feeling, what they’re concerned with, so we can address it.”
The surveys were conducted by Elucd, a national data research company, beginning in 2017. The surveys were advertised through various internet sites, including on social media, according to Sujeet Rao, chief operating officer for the company. Participants were anonymous and chosen in a balanced sample of residents based on race, income levels and other neighborhood demographics, he said.
Elucd calculates the trust scores for each district by asking survey participants on a scale of 0 to 10 how much they agree that police in their neighborhoods treat local residents with respect, and how much they agree that police in those areas take concerns of those residents seriously. To calculate a safety score, residents were asked on a scale of 0 to 10 how safe they feel in their neighborhoods.
The Englewood District on the South Side, an area that has struggled with crime, scored a 50, or 5 out of 10, for both trust and safety, according to the data from November. The West Side’s Harrison District, which leads Chicago in homicides this year, scored a 50 for trust and a 43, or 4.3 out of 10, for safety, the November data shows.
By contrast, the Jefferson Park District on the Northwest Side, traditionally one of the safest districts in the city, scored an 81 in trust and a 61 in safety, according to the November data. Just to the east, the Albany Park District for November scored a 71 in trust and a 62 in safety, the data shows.
The release of Thursday’s data comes about three months after a community survey from the federal consent decree monitor showed that while nearly 80% of white Chicago residents said the city’s police make them feel safer, less than half the Black residents who took part felt the same.
Overall, the survey, which included Black, white and Hispanic residents, showed a shared lack of confidence in the department, with only about half of all respondents saying Chicago police officers are trustworthy.
The monitor’s survey included interviews with 1,000 residents between November 2019 and February 2020 — notably before the Memorial Day death of George Floyd, a Black man, who died after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes during an arrest. The survey found that Hispanic Chicagoans overall closely tracked with the opinions of white residents, but they were more negative on specific questions about police ability to solve crime, community cooperation and fear of retaliation from officers for filing a complaint.
Black Chicagoans, however, had the most negative experiences with police, especially for the specific younger demographic the monitor focused on — young Black men between the ages of 18 and 25, according to the survey.
On Thursday, NYU’s Jordan said the new data shows that no one can deny what residents in Black and Hispanic communities throughout the city are saying about its police force, especially in areas of the city that could be overpoliced with not enough social services.
“I think it’s also important that police in the communities are actively working to build relationships with community members,” she said.
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