New UCPD Chief Talks Department’s Mental Health-Focused Responses and Community Engagement | Evening Summary


Kyle Bowman, chief of the University of Chicago Police Department since April and a former Michigan State Police officer, is looking for a residency in the neighborhood and loves his new job.

He comes most directly from Lansing, but grew up in Indian Village, Detroit – a leafy enclave with large stately homes on the city’s East Side.

“There’s a very familiar feel about this space and the environment here,” Bowman said.

Bowman was deputy director of the MSP and said under his leadership the UCPD focused on resolving situations with minimal force and addressing mental health issues beyond jailing a person.

In April 2018, a UCPD an officer shot a University of Chicago student Charles Soji Thomas, who, while suffering from a mental health crisis, allegedly ran towards an officer with a metal object.

Bowman noted that the ministry crisis intervention training (CIT), whereby mental health and emergency providers attempt to teach officers how to defuse mental health crisis situations without resorting to force or their weapons. All officers who have been with UCPD for more than two years have completed the training, which lasts approximately 40 hours. (The department had this training in place before the 2018 shoot.)

He added that CIT training helps officers understand that people going through mental health crises don’t necessarily pose a risk to the public.

“If we can find a way to get them the help they need, it may not require incarceration or going to jail… It may satisfy the situation at the time; it does not help us. not in terms of the larger community environment once that person solves that legal problem,” Bowman said. “(CIT) is really about trying to find ways to solve the problem and recognizing that there’s no – not be such a great threat to the public which therefore forces us to react.

He said poor police department results, such as the use of force or fatal shootings, often come from officers thinking they need to get subjects and situations under control quickly. “The CIT training helps this agent rethink that process, slow down some things, and recognize that they may have more time to work with a person,” he said. “It’s not necessarily about trying to escape or fight law enforcement. They’re just in crisis.”

In addition to emphasizing mental health training, Bowman spoke of an increased presence of the UCPD in the community, “so that we don’t wait for crimes to be committed and then look for individuals to arrest. “, did he declare.

Bowman is interested, for example, in auto thefts in the UCPD patrol area. He said a study is being started in partnership with the Chicago Police Department to understand what types of vehicles are being stolen and what police can do about it. Once the UCPD takes stock of the makes and models of cars that have been stolen from its patrol area over the past few years, Bowman will know where the thefts are occurring and officers will strategize on what to do. they can do to prevent them.

Cars can be parked in particular areas so police can better monitor them, or police can increase patrols in blocks where thefts disproportionately take place, he said.

Despite these increased patrols, “I don’t want my officers to measure success at the end of their shift by how many people they’ve arrested,” Bowman said. “The ultimate goal would be to have no one to arrest.”

One way to do this, Bowman said, is to strategically place agents where the department typically has a higher volume of service calls. He speculated that placing agents in these areas would reduce the number of calls.

Bowman acknowledged that his officers were going to be measured by how “crime goes down.”

Policing an area like Hyde Park and its surrounding neighborhoods, and dealing with an organization with such complex community relations as the University of Chicago, is, to say the least, complicated.

Over the past few years, there have been many large protests on the U campus. of this in the surrounding neighborhoods, by student groups and community organizations, calling for the redistribution of UCPD funds to other university services, such as improving mental health counseling. Others called the department be completely dissolved.

Bowman said law enforcement needs to be aware of how his community feels about being watched. It translates feelings like “reimbursing the police” to “we don’t like the way we’re served.”

“There are always opportunities for us to engage more with the community and make sure they feel more comfortable with how they are treated and served,” he said. “This is the kind of training and where we will spend our resources that we have to grow as a department.”

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