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Coalition Wants Funds For New Police & Fire Academy To Go To Struggling Communities

By aaroncynic in News on Sep 20, 2017 9:10PM

Activists that are part of a coalition called "No Cop Academy" host a press conference demanding the city divert funds from a new police academy to communities. Photo via Chicago Rising.

A coalition of more than 20 community groups is calling for Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the city to put the brakes on a new, $95 million police and fire training academy slated to be built in Garfield Park and instead divert the money to marginalized communities.

Dubbed “no cop academy,”; the coalition says it plans to take various actions over the course of the next month to highlight why the City should “fund communities instead of police.”

“Every year, the city of Chicago spends $1.5 billion on police—that’s $4 million dollars per day. We need to fund communities, not police,” Monica Trinidad of the People’s Response Team said in a statement emailed to Chicagoist. “Rahm closed 50 public schools and half of the city’s public mental health clinics because he said the city couldn’t afford them. It’s a slap in the face to our impacted communities to see Rahm turn up another $95 million for the city's most violent institution.”

The coalition, which includes groups such as BYP100, Assata’s Daughters, the Chicago Community Bond Fund, Jewish Voices For Peace Chicago, Lifted Voices, the Grassroots Collaborative, and more, says it plans to highlight what it says is a hypocritical pattern of Emanuel “cutting vital public resources in the name of cost savings while simultaneously pouring more resources into the violent Chicago Police.”

The new campus, which will be built on more than 30 acres of privately owned vacant land, will replace one police academy and two fire academies all more than four decades old.

“Our first responders deserve the best training to take on the challenges they face every day and they deserve the best facility to learn and practice in,” Emanuel said in a statement to the Chicago Sun-Times when the academy was announced in July. Alderman Emma Mitts told the Sun-Times at the time she was supportive of the new facility.

“The thousands of first responders reporting for training every day will not only drive economic development, but also add a big public safety presence,” Mitts said in a statement.

Groups with the coalition say that there’s no guarantee that the jobs the academy may bring will go to residents of the neighborhood, and that the idea that it would spurn meaningful economic growth is a non-starter. Moreover, they say, giving more money to a department that’s largely lacked accountability over the years and struggled to make reforms is “dangerous.”

“Investing $95 million more into the police department’s infrastructure without any meaningful accountability or oversight is absolutely dangerous,” Trinidad said at a press conference Wednesday morning at City Hall. “We aren’t falling for Rahm’s charade. CPAC remains stalled out in committee and COPA is just a face-lifted IPRA.

Rather than spending the money on the academy, the group wants the city to put the money towards things like public schools, accessible mental health clinics, living wages, and after school and job training program, which they say will strengthen communities.

“Chicago’s communities need resources--not criminalization,” said Page May of Assata’s Daughters. “We should be defunding and downsizing the Chicago Police Department and investing those funds in providing the vital resources our communities need.”