CHICAGO (WLS) — Right now, Chicago and American cities are facing a public safety crisis.
And the burden of helping save lives falls mainly on police departments and the community.
That’s why last month, the University of Chicago launched a first-of-its kind initiative to train the next generation of policing and community violence intervention leaders from across the country and the world.
The Community Safety Leadership Academy is a six-month course that’s seen as a game-changer in the fight against gun violence.
Kim Smith is the Director of Programs at the University of Chicago Crime Lab and Education Lab and Dr. Chico Tillmon is the director of the newly formed C-V-I Leadership Academy.
“We’re all aware that gun violence has increased not just in Chicago but across the country and that has had a disproportionate impact on communities of color,” said Smith. “We also know that police alone cannot address these challenges so community violence intervention is a really promising alternative to reducing gun violence.”
The academy received hundreds of applicants for the program that includes three months of immersive training in New York, Oakland and Chicago.
They’ll be able to learn from rigorous academic experts as well as individuals who are expert practitioners in this particular field to help them, not only learn theoretical perspectives on how to institute CVI but also what it looks like in practice,” said Tillmon. “Because we wanted them to be able to implement immediately in the organizations that they’re leading right now in America.”
Smith said right now, a lot of programming is invested in frontline workers. “Here we’re really trying to make sure that the senior and executive leaders of the organization have the skills to increase the impact of their work,” she said.
According to Smith, there’s evidence evidence that community violence intervention works.
“The combination of street outreach, of behavioral science interventions, of de-escalating stressful situations – that kind of pilgrimatic work can reduce gun violence,” said Smith.
The new CVI program is part of a larger initiative that includes the Policing Leadership Academy which began in May.
About 24 police commanders and captains, also from across the country and world, are participating in the program.
It builds on prior research that shows management interventions can reduce violence crime rates and police use of force by more than a third.
Tillmon said he’s participated in the trainings and he said his goal was to humanize policing.
“I think somehow we have objectified policing and excluded them from being a part of the community,” said Tillmon. “I wanted the officers to know that they are a part of the community and that CVI is a complimentary component to policing and that in order to solve the problem of violence in our community, we would have to work collaboratively even though we have distinct roles.”
Smith said the PLA is not just a professional development seminar. She said it’s truly a violence reduction initiative.
“You can do both,” said Smith. “You can have safer communities, you can have fewer shooters and homicides and you can have more fair and just policing.”