March 10, 2009

Commander Sobczyk

Commander Sobczyk had a couple of recurring themes during his discussion and question and answer session. One was “we don’t have to agree to get along, we have to understand” meaning the complete picture and the parts that make up the whole. And, there’s always another side to the story.

The only time I’ve attended a ‘meet the commander’ was for former Commander Bruce Rottner. It was more of a gospel event than a public meeting. That said, it was apparent that many of the residents attending last night were impressed with our new commanders direct approach. Many expressed their hope that his tenure will be long and productive.

In the brief discussion before questions were opened to the audience, Sobczyk remarked at the uniqueness of the residents who reside in Rogers Park. Many on the police force, fire department, local businesses owners and NFP’s are also residents.

On prioritizing – Sobczyk stated one can over-prioritize and accomplish little or take the top problems and make them a priority. On the Howard Street Initiative, the commander stated there are three dynamics that must be dealt with: the Howard El stop, White Park and the gang turfs. He mentioned drug dealers who exit the train daily to do their job and leave the neighborhood. Other than the new train station, the area is vulnerable due to a shortage of businesses on the street. He will be monitoring this activity to see if there’s a shift to another area from the pressure of police presence on Howard and nearby streets. He stated: “The police are one-third of the solution.”

The commander outlined the Howard area by stating “do I want a neighborhood where gangs are uncomfortable or where I am uncomfortable”? Howard was defined as one of his top priorities based on reported crime and 911 calls rather than a political whim. So he began his initiative while it was still cold rather than beginning when warmer weather brought the usual problems. He wants to ensure that certain individuals understand immediately that they can’t deal drugs, drink alcohol in the park, or shoot craps on the sidewalks. He’s going to change the comfort level here.

He fielded a few tough questions from police sensitivity and behavior, to dealing with problem youth in group homes, to providing a homeless shelter. On the first issue he stated complaints should be made if inappropriate behavior is witnessed. He asked one woman to speak to him after the meeting about her problem. On homeless shelters, he stated he’s a policeman – not a social worker. That was in a chain action beginning with Michael James making a statement on homelessness in Rogers Park followed by a woman in that camp asking if it wouldn’t be more productive to have a homeless shelter in Rogers Park than people sleeping in alleys. Again, Sobczyk responded that he isn’t a social worker - he’s a policeman. There was an attempt by the woman to praise certain individuals and chastise others and Sobczyk nipped the commentary in the bud since it was a meeting about policing not civilian personalities.

The commander referred to spikes in burglaries in two beats and stated there would be ‘covert’ officers watching . Hopefully, the group understood that not all details can be divulged regarding these operations in a public meeting. He mentioned joining upcoming walks with Beat 2424. Beat 2424 has been actively working with the Chicago and Evanston police and neighbors in both areas.

As the group asked questions and received responses, it became apparent that many didn’t know their beat facilitator or attend beat meetings. He urged the audience to attend LSC meetings if their complaints were about student behavior and to attend beat meetings with crime complaints. He suggested people get to know their beat police. By creating rapport with the individuals involved in schools and the police force, neighbors can identify issues and work on resolutions as a group. Groups working together are more constructive in problem solving than individuals sending letters or emails to the commander only. Again, the police are one-third of the solution.

One of the final questions was one of the best. A gentleman asked if civilians could ride with the police. He relocated to Chicago from Jacksonville, Florida. The commander exclaimed “See, that’s global warming!” After the laughter died down, the man stated he was once a flaming liberal from the University of Wisconsin until he worked in Florida with law enforcement. He mirrored some of the commanders statements that police are people with families and life issues just like everyone else. Many civilians might have a learning experience by getting to know their beat officers and have a better understanding of what its like to be ‘in their shoes’. There’s always another side to the story.

The commander will be attending Beat 2422 meeting – the Howard Street area beat - on Thursday, March 12 at 7 pm at the 7450 N Rogers in the community room.

John Paul Jones FOTP and Cmdr. Sobczyk John Paul Jones FOTP and Cmdr. Sobczyk
A Rogers Park resident and Cmdr. Sobczyk Guess who

1 comment:

Tom Mannis said...

Excellent report, Toni, thank you.