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Off The Beat/Coach Weincord Walks the Hall

Trading Community Policing for Public Relations

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By Ben Joravsky

Up until about six months ago, residents in Uptown were having problems with the boisterous drunks and bullies who frequented a local pool hall.

But with the help of police and organizers provided by the city's community-policing program they devised a solution: community nights at the pool hall, when law-abiding residents come out to play. Today most of the troublemakers have moved elsewhere. "It's community policing at its best," says Ani Russell, associate director of the Chicago Alliance for Neighborhood Safety (CANS), a coalition of neighborhood groups.

But Mayor Daley is preparing to abolish community policing as it's practiced, even as such success stories mount. In December the administration will cut funding for 25 outreach organizers--like the one who fought the noisy pool hall--and use the money saved from their salaries to finance a less-expensive publicity campaign orchestrated by mayoral aides and the Police Department. "We would like to have infinite amounts of money, but we haven't got that," says Paul Jenkins, a spokesman for the Police Department. "Absent that, we have to go in different directions with community policing."

Supporters of the current community-policing program think the budget talk's a ruse. "You're talking about a $2.3 million program in a city budget of $3 billion--this is not about dollars," says Russell. "They're taking the community out of community policing because a lot of them were never comfortable with the community being there in the first place."

The idea for the program emerged in the mid-1980s, when community activists began using their organizing skills in a war on crime. "The most important thing behind community policing is community participation--you're organizing residents to work with the police," says Warren Friedman, executive director of CANS. "Let's say you have a problem with a drug house. With community policing you bring residents and police together to figure out a solution. You may call in the forest department to trim the trees in front of the building so the drug action can be watched. Then you have the city bring the landlord to housing court. The point is to coordinate all of your resources so the police aren't fighting the dealers on their own and the community doesn't feel alienated from the police."

In 1988 CANS, which had earned its reputation organizing block watches, began to press city officials to adopt a community-policing program. But the Police Department was suspicious of the idea--perhaps wary that this was the first step toward citizen review of the police themselves.

Mayor Eugene Sawyer appointed a committee to study the idea. But the committee was disbanded after Daley was elected. Under pressure from CANS, police superintendent Leroy Martin agreed to meet with community-policing advocates.

"Martin was not happy to be at that meeting," says Friedman. "He said, 'What is community policing?' And after a bunch of people gave him responses that were quite informed, he literally threw up his hands and said, 'What do you want?'"

What they eventually got in 1993--after countless meetings, press conferences, protests, City Council hearings, and a consultant report--was a pilot program in five police districts: Rogers Park, Austin, Englewood, Marquette Park, and Morgan Park.

"They increased police staff in those districts. They defined beat teams--eight or nine officers who were supposed to be anchored in the beat they were serving," says Friedman. "In the past the police responded to services whenever a call came in. Now the idea was to embed officers on a regular beat so they would know the community and its problems. There were also monthly beat meetings established so the community could talk to police officers and we could begin to alleviate some of the tension and isolation that have divided police from community."

The pilot program drew so much praise that Daley expanded it. In 1994 CANS was given a contract to hire two outreach workers for each of the department's 25 police districts. Eventually the program was scaled back to only one outreach worker per district.

"The beat outreach organizers go door-to-door to local businesses, churches, and civic groups asking them to come to meetings where there are community and police trainers who train people as to how they can fight crime in their community," says Friedman. "There's a skepticism that we overcome when people see community trainers and police trainers working together. But the key is to get the community involved."

And yet CANS staffers felt that skepticism within the Police Department never fully abated. "There was always some tension," says Friedman. "At times the brass let us know that they thought our community-organizing pedagogy was too intense; at times they let us know they didn't think we needed so much outreach and that they didn't want too much partnership in what they considered police business. I'm not sure they ever fully trusted us."

It didn't help when CANS released a survey citing widespread distrust of police among youth. "The mayor, I was reliably informed, was absolutely livid by that report," says Friedman. "That may be part of the reason they're cutting the program. There may be lingering anger against us--an attitude that we have no right to take the city's money and be critical."

Police and Daley administration officials say the cutback in the program is not an act of retribution. "I think we're on good terms with them," says Jenkins. "I wouldn't even characterize this new relationship as a parting. There's a lot to be gained on both sides by continued contact."

But city officials say CANS will have no direct role in future community-policing efforts. Instead the city will orchestrate a public-relations campaign employing posters and videos to encourage residents to work with police.

"We're going to have public-service announcements by celebrities like [Bears player] Chris Zorich," says Ted O'Keefe, the mayoral aide in charge of community policing. "'Safe neighborhoods are everybody's business. Get with the beat.' That's our new logo--like it? I think it's good."

But Friedman and Russell don't think any logo--no matter how catchy--can substitute for aggressive block-by-block organizing. "To make community policing work you have to have organizers in the neighborhoods getting people involved," says Russell. "Posters and videos won't do the trick."

Coach Weincord Walks the Hall

It may have been a year or two late in coming, but the Chicago Public League Basketball Coaches Association finally got around to inducting Manny Weincord into its Hall of Fame.

Weincord coaches at Roosevelt High School and was profiled in these pages several years ago. In his 34 years at the Albany Park school he's coached dozens of teams, won hundreds of games, cracked thousands of jokes, and abided by a slew of self-imposed rules: he doesn't recruit, he doesn't run up a score, and when the game's over, win or lose, he shakes the other coach's hand. "This isn't war, it's basketball," Weincord says. "So many coaches, their ego gets involved; they say, 'I won 400 games'--but I say, 'My players won 400 games.' I was just the guy on the sideline ranting and raving. I hope I taught them something about teamwork and responsibility that will help them in life."

The induction ceremony, held at the banquet hall in the Hickory Pit restaurant in Bridgeport, was a must-attend gathering for basketball junkies. Sun-Times sportswriter Clyde Travis was the joke-cracking master of ceremonies, and the audience was filled with such high school luminaries as Luther Bedford (head coach at Marshall), Frank Lollino (head coach of Mark Aguirre's old Westinghouse team), Harvey Babetch (the great scorer from Von Steuben High), and Jerry "Moose" Malitz (starting center on the 1954 Roosevelt High School championship team).

The keynote address was offered by Jimmy Collins, basketball coach at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who half-kiddingly pleaded with coaches to "send me your players" and opined that Orlando might have won a game or two against the Bulls had they run some plays for Simeon-grad Nick Anderson instead of continually forcing the ball down low to Shaq.

Someone passed around an old picture of Weincord from high school. "Look at me--skinny as a stick," Weincord said. "I was so skinny that when we went into a restaurant the waiter hung me on the coatrack. My mother said, 'What are you doing to my son?' He said, 'Your son? I thought that was your umbrella.'

"You know, all I ever really wanted to do was coach basketball at Roosevelt. I grew up in Albany Park, I graduated from Roosevelt [in 1950]. I look back and I can't believe I've been there for so long. Each year there are fewer coaches still around from when I started. Next year may be my last, but you never know. I might keep coaching until I'm 137 years old. You'll see me on the sidelines: Old Man Weincord, with a cane and a walker."

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo of Warren Friedman and Ani Russell by Cynthia Howe.

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