In a breakthrough statement on racial reconciliation and police legitimacy, Garry McCarthy, the newly appointed Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department, has stressed the importance of recognizing and addressing the historic tension between minority communities and police that can be traced back to police departments enforcing racist policies of past government institutions.
McCarthy has been a central figure in the work of the National Network for Safe Communities to frame practical, applied approaches to effecting reconciliation between distressed minority communities and law enforcement. The National Network was launched by the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 2009 and currently counts 61 member jurisdictions nationwide. McCarthy's statement emphasizes one of the National Network's key principles – that the tensions between police and minority communities are unacceptable. The Superintendent said in an interview with WBEZ 91.5 that police executives should also be willing to admit that the mistakes of the more recent past, such as zero-tolerance approaches, have resulted in unintended but highly damaging consequences for communities of color and further heightened existing historic tensions.
McCarthy stressed that, as part of the Chicago Violence Reduction Strategy, his department intends to narrowly focus its resources "on the right people, in the right places, for the right things" and have officers interact with minorities in a way that was fair and professional to infuse in these communities the sense that police actions are legitimate. Echoing research findings by Yale Professor Tracey Meares, a member of the National Network Executive Board, McCarthy said that people will in fact comply with the law more readily if they feel that police action is legitimate.
The vision set out by Supt. McCarthy for Chicago, a National Network Leadership Group site that has been implementing the group violence reduction strategy since 2009, further elevates the National Network's efforts of building a new standard of practice in policing. Through promoting proven crime prevention strategies with the support of the Office of Community-Oriented Policing Services (COPS) at the Department of Justice, the National Network seeks to reduce unacceptable levels of violence and incarceration rates in the country's most vulnerable communities while promoting racial reconciliation between these communities and the police departments that serve them.
Chicago and the other National Network Leadership Group cities are currently focusing together on racial reconciliation and police legitimacy as one of three key areas for advancement in their efforts to take the strategies to national scale.