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Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) is a community-based program formulated to transform policing efforts into a structured five-step process for law enforcement. The goal of the program is to solve crime problems within the neighborhood, rather than purely reacting to its symptomatic consequences.
The Chicago Police Department (CPD) developed the CAPS program in 1993. Originally the initiative began in five policing districts, however, after the testing phase, it expanded to encompass the entire city. Development of the program included collaborative efforts from each district’s senior department executives, commanders, and civilian planners.
The five-step process created for the CAPS program are:
- Identify and prioritize problems.
- Analyze issues.
- Strategize designs to deal with problems.
- Implement a plan.
- Evaluate effectiveness.
Meetings between law enforcement and community advisory committees about the CAPS program happen on a monthly basis. Both groups regularly participate in extensive training.
They also utilize city services and new technology components to help target crime in each area. For example, the Department of Streets and Sanitation, the mayor’s Liquor License Commission, and the Department of Buildings collaborate to manage small crimes before they become larger issues.
One major component of the program is community commitment and involvement. To promote awareness of the program within Chicago neighborhoods civic education, media ads, billboards, brochures, festival booths, and rallies are used.
One of the individuals highly involved in the program is Officer JB Brown from the 10th district. He is a firm believer in the best way to be involved in the community is “to have boots to the ground.” The ability to build relationships within the community helps the CPD conduct their jobs more effectively.
Once a relationship is established it allows officers to walk into a situation with an individual and get down to the root of the issue. The CAPS program is extremely important for Chicago because it allows officers to break through the stereotypical scenarios that have been instilled into individuals at a young age.
Officers use their community relationships to continue to build “the trust that’s already there.” CPD Officer Brown stated, “If it’s not there, you’re basically starting from square one. A lot of that comes from what you’ve done within the community.”
He then described some experiences he has encountered.
“I can go through the community and there are people there that I’ve arrested and they’re like ‘Man, hey how are you? How’s everything going?'” These people have even said to Officer Brown, “I thank you for everything that you’ve done for me before.”
Brown added, “Because when I’ve had that negative interaction in that lawful manner, I’ve been respectful. I’ve come through and wasn’t like it was a personal thing of me versus them. Like hey, this is part of the job.”
Once people have had those types of exchanges they are able to realize they have “been treated with the utmost respect and then once everything is done that’s that. Our personal relationship after that is up to us.”
Officer Brown and other CAPS participants make routine visits to local schools to help students associate police with positivity. During this time they will talk, play chess, and talk about issues the children may be facing.
Every day CAPS and CPD officers work hard to keep their communities safe and healthy. On March 10, 2022, the “10th district CAPS, DCOs, and District Commander Betancourt collaborated with [the] MEC church to distribute 6 pallets of fresh food to the little village community,” according to their Twitter page @ChicagoCAPS10.
On March 13, they tweeted, “10th District CAPS Officers assisted with the 1031 Beat facilitator Sandra Mendez and local community member Suellen Wolk in getting bicycles for 3 children in the neighborhood who needed them. We are so glad we could all connect and make this possible before Springtime!”
Two days later, they posted, “DCO’s and CAPS Officers of the 10th District collaborated with @_thefirehouse_ of North Lawndale as they do every week, to deliver warm meals to local residents in the community. Happy to see everyone smiling and enjoying their food!”
People always hear horror stories involving police officers, but how often do they hear incredible heartwarming ones. Granted the scary ones grab people’s attention, however, they do not always portray the true day and life of officers. The CAPS program aims to change individual minds about interactions with authority figures.
Officer Brown said that he is always willing to communicate and interact with the neighborhood. “If you want to talk to me; if I’ve come up with a solution for you or I’ve set you up with a job or anything that can make a difference,” he is available to assist to the best of his abilities.
Written by Sheena Robertson
Interview: Officer JB Brown on March 17, 2022
Youth: Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS)
Chicago Police Department: How CAPS Works