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May 5, 2015

UCPD to create advisory board drawing from local community

The University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD) recently announced that it is in the process of creating a Community Advisory Board, which will consist of community members from the Hyde Park, Kenwood, Oakland, and Woodlawn neighborhoods, according to a University statement. The community members on the committee will be selected based on conversations between University officials, local leaders, and aldermen in the affected wards by the end of this academic year and will start their duties soon after.

According to UCPD Assistant Chief Gloria Graham, the Community Advisory Board will serve as an important bridge between the UCPD and non–University affiliated community members who live in the areas the UCPD patrols. The UCPD’s jurisdiction currently extends from East 37th Street to East 64th Street and South Cottage Grove Avenue to South Lake Shore Drive.

Graham hopes that the advisory board will be able to provide helpful feedback on UCPD relationships with surrounding areas. “Much of what we do affects more than just the University community. We wanted to have dialogue with those audiences as well,” Graham said.

The announcement comes just days after Illinois House Bill (H.B.) 3932, which would require the UCPD and other private police forces to make the same amount of information publicly available as public police forces do, passed in the Illinois House. It awaits passage in the state senate. However, Graham says that the creation of this committee has been in the works for about a year, and has nothing to do with H.B. 3932.

“This is something completely separate that we are using as a tool or a mechanism to keep track in real time…. If we can have relationship building, information could be much more free flowing,” Graham said. “The overarching goal is to have an avenue to get feedback about safety services and community relationships.”

Organizations such as the South Side Solidarity Network’s Campaign for Equitable Policing (CEP) have noted tensions between the UCPD and the surrounding community for several years. According to the CEP’s website, these tensions were partially a result of the lack of transparency in the UCPD. If H.B. 3932 passes in the Illinois Senate, it could potentially alleviate these tensions, although Graham stated that the UCPD already voluntarily provides much of the information that would be required by H.B. 3932.

UCPD Chief Marlon Lynch was heavily involved in the creation of the committee and was one of the initiators of the proposal, according to Graham. The University Department of Safety and Security, which runs the UCPD, also worked closely with the Office of Civic Engagement, with Graham noting that Vice President of Civic Engagement Derek Douglas was also involved in planning for the committee.

No students will sit on the Community Advisory Committee, with Graham stating that the main purpose of the committee is to increase communication between non-University community members and the University. Graham noted that students are already on two other committees, both of which are run by Student Government: the Committee on Crime Prevention and Security on Campus and the Neighborhood and the Independent Review Committee for the UCPD.

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