Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Culture of Not Snitching

So Police Chief Weis is lamenting the "code of silence" in the community, and that there is not a "sense of community and civic urgency" to share information with police, as an important reason behind the lack of quick resolution to crimes, particularly Fenger High beatings. Of course people in the community ask the critical question, "what have the police done to earn our trust?".

Shuffling officers into and out of impoverished neighborhoods, where their only focus is on maintaining the peace, often by any means necessary, does practically nothing to develop the kind of relationship that engenders trust and confidence from the people in those communities. And then you add to that the infamous "Blue line" of silence . . . you could almost say the police invented the code of silence. Certainly they enforce that code more tightly than any other structured organization.

As Chief Weis has settled into his position I've noticed him becoming the "Apologist in Chief" as much as anything. Only the most egregious police offense has caused him to sway from that position . . . oh, egregious and caught on tape. I've known enough police in my life to know that many are dedicated to their jobs, and the idea of service to the community. I also know that the vast majority of good police get tainted by the odor of corruption and brutality of the few, when they excuse it and fail to report it. The fact that the Chicago Police Department refuses to release reports of officers abuse accusations, is a testament to the effectiveness of the blue wall of silence.

Until a noticeable and obvious shift in community policing standards and tactics is implemented, one where community relationships are viewed as important and measurable components on an officer's career track record, I'm afraid people will continue to view them with understandable suspicion and often outright disdain. I wish this were not the case, but wishing won't make it go away . . . and neither will words without action.

What do you think?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Back to Basics

Have you ever thought of taking yourself, and even your family "off the grid"? Essentially planting yourself in a rural location far removed from cell towers, electrical towers . . . even water towers. And teaching yourself to live from the land to the extent possible. Well Brother Fred Carter and his family are doing just that in a rural township just outside of Chicago - Hopkins Park, and I had the pleasure of visiting them last week in my work with the Positive Anti-Crime Thrust (PACT).

The Black Oak Center for Renewable Sustainable Living is a living example of of how to make efficient use of our limited resources, and more importantly a place of community values and educational opportunity. The vision that guides their work:
Our vision is to create safe, healing spaces founded on the principles of environmental stewardship and social equality. A place where community can learn skills required to master sustainability to lead a successful transition to a post carbon world. From this, our communities, families, and children will be resilient. Hence, they will be fully capable of being lifeboats thriving during an energy descent.
They have been conducting retreats and hands-on educational experiences for children from Chicago, and have a curriculum that includes Sustainable Agriculture, Renewable Energy and Sustainable Building. In addition they have been instrumental in developing the African American Farmers Co-op, which supports farmers markets throughout Chicago.

One of the projects PACT is working on involves developing a fulfillment capacity for farmers markets that would provide sales and distribution jobs for ex-offenders. The fact is that the African American community suffers from a syndrome commonly referred to as "Food Deserts". This results when there are no opportunities to purchase fresh produce within a given geography (all Micky D's and Liquor stores). One partial solution to that problem is the development and support of farmers markets (my church, Trinity UCC began this year putting on a market every Saturday).

Please consider helping out Black Oaks with a donation this holiday season. It's a great opportunity to support an effort that is unique and forward thinking.

I'd love to hear what you think.