Mar 22, 2023 - News

Former top cops map out police reform for cities like Chicago

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

A group of former police chiefs wants cities like Chicago to rethink their approach to policing.

Why it matters: Chicago is searching for a new top cop right now.

  • Retired oplice superintendent David Brown's successor will serve under a new mayor elected by voters in next month's runoff election, where public safety and crime are top issues.

Driving the news: Former Seattle police chief Kathleen O'Toole and the 21st Century Policing Solutions authored a new report outlining nationwide policing challenges and reform-minded solutions, released this morning.

  • Bob Boik, the former executive director of constitutional policing for CPD, tells Axios he supports the study, saying it should be used as a roadmap for picking Chicago's next superintendent.

The big picture: Challenges that cities face, per the report, include the collapse of public trust in police, dwindling numbers of officers, and rising crime during and after the pandemic.

  • Solutions: Leadership accountability, community involvement in policing strategy and hiring neighborhood officers that are from, and look like, the communities they serve, according to the group.

Of note: The group behind the report is an outgrowth of a 2014 task force commissioned by former President Barack Obama.

Zoom in: The report suggests that police leaders should reorganize departments to put more emphasis on patrols and less on specialized units. The recommendation comes in the wake of the fatal police beating of Tyre Nichols during a traffic stop involving a special unit in Memphis.

  • Boik says it also emphasizes building strategies with communities, with developing trust as the prime objective.
  • "What we learned from other major cities like New York or Los Angeles is that when you build community trust it has a significant impact on violent crime," Boik says.

Context: Chicago has been under a federal court-mandated consent decree since 2018, and city leaders have been slow to enforce the reforms.

What they're saying: "The challenge in Chicago is reform has been contextualized as a box-checking exercise and real reform is far different," says Boik, who was fired from his CPD role last year after he questioned Brown's deployment strategy and lack of movement on reforms.

  • "Really it's about truly believing in reform, and the new superintendent will need to lead from the front, which will result in an accelerated consent decree compliance."

What we're watching: The new Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability will hold public meetings to get input from Chicago residents on the search for a new police chief.

  • The oversight group will recommend three candidates to the next mayor.
  • Both mayoral candidates have said they want to hire from within the department.

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Chicago.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Chicago stories


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Chicago.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more