District officers finding ways to connect with local community
by JASON MEREL
Officers in the 16th (Jefferson Park) and 17th (Albany Park) police districts have been finding new ways to connect with the community as a result of social distancing recommendations due to the pandemic, according to 16th District commander Maureen Biggane and 17th District CAPS officers.
It started with small acts of kindness when the crisis began, Biggane said. A local restaurant would send lunch for district officers. Children stuck at home would send handwritten letters. Parents or teachers would donate office supplies they bought for the spring semester.
Then residents started donating homemade face masks and hand sanitizer, she said.
"It was nothing short of uplifting. We’re honored and truly grateful to be able to come to work and see the ways people support us," Biggane said. "So we’re trying to find new, innovative ways to connect to people, to support the community in return. It’s a reminder of why we do this work."
Biggane said officers reached out to local seniors and offered to help by getting groceries and supplies for them and that having police officers help these seniors adds an invaluable safety component to the process of having food delivered.
The community support has also been inspiring officers to find new ways to engage the younger members of the community from a safe distance, according to Biggane.
"You might see a birthday parade instead of a birthday party for kids these days," Biggane said. "If we can, we’ll jump in the line, turn on the lights and sirens for them, maybe sing ‘Happy Birthday’ over the loud speaker."
But it’s not just community relations that seem to be benefiting.
Many districts throughout the city have been conducting virtual beat meetings, according to a 17th District CAPS officer. The official 17th District Twitter page says that the Thursday, April 16, beat meeting for Beats 1723 and 1724, held via the Zoom app, saw more than 120 participants, including State Representative Jaime Andrade (D-40) and aldermen Samantha Nugent (39th), Rosanna Rodriguez Sanchez (33rd) and Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th). Par-ticipants were e-mailed beat packets for the meeting and resident’s questions were submitted via e-mail and addressed at the meeting, the 17th district officer said.
Both 16th and 17th district headquarters have markers in place to maintain a socially-distanced line and each desk has a large sheet of acrylic installed as a sneeze guard, officials said.
"We do everything we can to make the officers feel safe," Biggane said. "The lobbies are open but we encourage people to call in if they need help."