Editorial: Elgin police continue quest to connect with residents with crime stats website
The Elgin Police Department has a long history of innovating ways to connect with residents.
Almost 30 years ago, it launched the Resident Officer Program of Elgin (ROPE) in which three officers were assigned to city-owned homes in troubled neighborhoods. That program grew to eight ROPE officers six years later.
Having a cop in these neighborhoods helped to strengthen the community's ties to the department by creating a more casual dialogue and resulted in lower crime rates.
That the department's police chief until 2018 got his start as one of the first ROPE officers is a testament to the program.
The department has expanded that idea with the Neighborhood Officer Program of Elgin (NOPE), in which officers are assigned to specific neighborhoods but don't live there.
These programs haven't proved a panacea, however. The community was riven by the March 2018 police shooting death of Elginite Decynthia Clements after a lengthy standoff on the Jane Addams Tollway.
The city has been working to heal that wound ever since.
Police Chief Ana Lalley has taken an important step in the right direction.
This month the department debuts a user-friendly website that includes information about the department's use of force, internal investigations and shots-fired calls as well as all of the city's crime statistics.
According to Daily Herald reporter Jim Fuller, the site also will update residents about the work the department is doing with six citizens' advisory boards that have been established to give officers more direct input and interaction within the neighborhoods they patrol.
It's being done in line with reforms being called for across the country.
"Now is a good opportunity for our community members to see us as people," Lalley said during her monthly Facebook live chat. "We are not robots. We have personalities."
Elgin has had 46 calls for shots fired this year, and those are understandably distressing for residents. The site will provide updates on how those investigations are going and whether any arrests have been made.
Elgin also has a way for people to speak anonymously to the department through a two-way chat.
And finally, the department is working to bring on its first therapy dog that will serve multiple purposes: accompanying officers to events, comforting crime victims and calming the nerves of stressed-out cops.
Police departments across the suburbs and across the country need to find ways to better connect with the people they serve. The Black Lives Matter movement has shown how broad the credibility gap is.
But the steps Elgin is taking are worth noticing and emulating.