New 16th District Police Council introduces itself to Gladstone Park assoc., hopes to bridge gaps between police and community
by BRIAN NADIG
The recently elected members of the 16th (Jefferson Park) Police District Council feel they’re in unchartered waters given that the council is a new government entity, but their goals are to bridge any gaps between the community and police and make officers feel welcome in the district.
“This is the first time in the country there’s been something like this,” council member Danny Martin said at the April 13 meeting of the Gladstone Park Neighborhood Association. “It’s a book that hasn’t been written. Our chapter of the book may be written differently than the rest of the city.”
In all, there are 22 three-member police councils in the city, one for each police district, and training for council members, who take office in early May, recently began.
Martin said that at the first training session it was clear not all of the councils will have the support-the-police mentality which he expects from the 16th District council. “They’re a little different than us, … their views on police,” Martin said. “People here (in this community) want more police.”
Martin added that he will not worry about the other councils and focus on the needs of the 16th District residents and the officers serving the district. “We can’t control the whole city,” he said. “I’m excited to see what this brings. … We don’t quite know yet.”
16th District council member Colleen Mary Dillon told the association that she grew up in a police family, as her father served on the force. “I believe in the police. I think we need them,” she said. “I love the 16th District. I’ve lived in Chicago my entire life.”
Council member Colleen Murphy said that she decided to run for the council because she was looking for additional ways to serve her community and was worried about a rise in anti-police sentiment. Murphy also serves as president of the Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association.
The council will be holding monthly meetings that will be open to the public, Murphy said. The meetings will be held at different locations in the district.
The role of the councils will primarily be advisory in nature, and the councils, whose members will receive monthly $500 stipends, must adhere to the Illinois Open Meetings Act, Martin said. “It’s a real government body … granted we have no powers,” he said.
The councils were formed as part of the “Empowering Communities for Public Safety” ordinance approved by the Chicago City Council in 2021. Several Northwest aldermen voted against the ordinance, claiming that there already was sufficient oversight of the police.
The councils will work with the citywide 7-member Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability, which will have input in selecting new police superintendents. The councils will nominate members to the commission.