Top cops can't explain what's up with CAPS | Bleader

Top cops can't explain what's up with CAPS

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CAPS director Ron Holt: Nothing has been changed, so to speak.
Chicago police officials are contradicting each other and withholding information about the future of the program designed to open communication networks with the community.

On Friday afternoon, the director of the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy, or CAPS, added the latest twist, denying that anything will be different next year—except where it is.

"Nothing has been changed, so to speak," says CAPS director Ron Holt.

Really?

As I reported earlier, the budget for the CAPS central office has been cut from about $4.6 million this year to zero for 2013.

While monthly or semimonthly beat meetings are scheduled to continue, police superintendent Garry McCarthy said this week that he wants to dramatically revamp things so that district commanders decide what to do with CAPS beat by beat.

"I want a philosophy of policing. I don't want a program, and CAPS is actually a program," McCarthy said. "We haven't finished all the details on this now, but the fact is that we're distributing all the CAPS folks out into the districts, into the district commanders' hands, where it's localized and they have a better handle on what's going on."

Aldermen repeatedly asked just how this new form of community policing would work, but McCarthy struggled to explain it—probably because, as he admitted, he didn't know himself just yet.

"This is all being built as we speak," he said.

First deputy superintendent Al Wysinger added that Holt and other top CAPS officials—those who've been responsible for implementing community outreach citywide—would likely be given other duties. "We don't know where they're going to fit per se," he said.

Yet Holt tells me that's not the case: "Whatever the superintendent has said, that's his opinion, but I'm still CAPS director."

I don't want to get anyone in trouble, but it sure sounds like somebody's spinning one way and someone else is spinning the other.

If the budget speaks the truth and two plus two equals four—a big if, since around here it often doesn't—McCarthy is closing the CAPS office so he can quietly put the money and personnel to use in the neighborhoods. That's politically touchy because aldermen and residents are clamoring for more resources while the superintendent says they're not needed.

For now, CAPS officers and district leaders aren't sure what's going on either.

"We know they're doing something with the CAPS office," says one district supervisor. "But what the implications might be, I don't know."

Incidentally, officials also said this week that the year's homicide clearance rate is 36 percent, down from 51 percent in 2011—the result of a lack of cooperation from people in the neighborhoods.

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