March 2021
Working Together to Reimagine Public Safety
Civic Consulting Alliance facilitates collaborative public safety and criminal justice reform with institutions and communities to ensure that everyone is safe and justice is exercised equitably. The events of 2020—in particular, rising gun violence and widespread protests around systemic racism and the role of police in society—highlighted that we must remain focused on this important work.
 
Over the past two years, we have supported the City in preparing for its comprehensive public safety plan—“Our City, Our Safety,” which you can read about in our November newsletter. This month, we highlight three recent examples of projects that are part of our work to help the City fulfill the vision of “Our City, Our Safety.” These projects incorporated collaboration and community input as central design tenets, key to ensuring that our public institutions’ policies and practices are effective, just, and equitable.
Developing a Community Engagement Process for Chicago Public Schools’ Whole School Safety Plan
In “Our City, Our Safety,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot acknowledges that violence is an equity issue that has persisted because “underlying causes—systemic racism, disinvestment, poverty, failed policing, lack of social services—have gone unaddressed” and commits “to ending violence through a multi-faceted, comprehensive, collaborative, and sustained public health approach.”
 
To that end, one agency that is reimagining its approach to safety is Chicago Public Schools (CPS). In August 2020, the Board of Education called for the creation of an inclusive process by which community members and other stakeholders could identify alternatives to the school resource officer program. The district then set out to design a process for schools to create a comprehensive “Whole School Safety Plan”—a menu of trauma-informed approaches to safety for schools to consider to meet this call to action.
 
Given Civic Consulting Alliance’s experience building community engagement and collaborative planning processes, we stepped up to develop a two-phase planning approach, timeline, and school safety framework. We then worked with CPS to implement the approach, below.
 
Phase 1: Community-led Engagement - October 2020 – March 2021
Civic Consulting Alliance developed an application and selection process to choose community organizations representing a cross-section of stakeholders and neighborhoods to join a new “Whole School Safety Steering Committee.” In December, CPS selected five organizations: the ARK of St. Sabina, BUILD Chicago, Community Organizing and Family Issues (COFI), Mikva Challenge, and Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE).
 
In January and February, in partnership with Embark Strategies, the Steering Committee —with coordination support from Civic Consulting Alliance and our pro bono partner Slalomco-designed and hosted 18 community engagement sessions with nearly 700 people to gather ideas around how to achieve three pillars of school safety: physical safety, emotional safety, and relational trust. This month, Civic Consulting Alliance will work with CPS and the Steering Committee to synthesize these ideas into 5-10 recommendations for CPS schools to consider.
 
Phase 2: School-based Implementation – March 2021 and Beyond
In the months ahead, CPS schools will leverage the menu of options created by the Steering Committee to develop their own holistic approach to school safety (i.e., their school’s Whole School Safety Plan) based on their particular needs. A new phase 2 steering committee consisting of a multi-disciplinary group of school community stakeholders will guide the creation of the implementation plan that will give schools the tools to design their plans. Civic Consulting Alliance is partnering with the University of Chicago's Trauma Responsive Educational Practices (TREP) Project to support this second phase.
 
As a result of this effort, by the start of the 2021-22 school year, CPS high schools will have access to a new robust, community-designed process that will offer them a holistic approach to designing their school safety plan.
 
"Civic Consulting Alliance provided technical guidance, including creating a detailed project plan that kept everything on track and everyone on the same page. This enabled the community-based organizations to focus on what mattered most: engaging community stakeholders on this important topic."

Jadine Chou, Chief Safety and Security Officer, Chicago Public Schools
 
Going forward, CPS schools will be able to implement the particular Whole School Safety Plan recommendations that best help their individual school build positive community relationships, ensure a safe learning environment, and address students’ social and emotional needs. As leaders in Chicago and across the country work to reimagine public safety, we hope this process can serve as an example of how to gather and incorporate community input to ensure more equitable outcomes.
Want to learn more about how the Chicago Mayor’s Office and CPS are centering equity as they reimagine public safety? Check out the third event in our "Getting Big Things Done" virtual conversation series.

Recorded on February 25, 2021, Civic Consulting Alliance’s CEO Rebekah Scheinfeld guides a conversation with leaders advancing this critical work in Chicago, including: Norman Kerr, the City’s Director of Violence Reduction; Jadine Chou, CPS Chief of Safety and Security; and Karen Lynn Morton, parent active with Community Organizing and Family Issues (COFI) and Co-Chair Emeritus of POWER-PAC IL.
Convening Community Stakeholders to Review COPA Policies
Since 2018, Civic Consulting Alliance has undertaken multiple projects to help the Chicago Police Department (CPD) and the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) prepare for and respond to a court-monitored consent decree, which mandates reforms across a wide range of areas. In particular, COPA is required to make operational and policy changes impacting how the agency tracks to revise how it tracks and investigates allegations of CPD member misconduct, as well as enhance transparency through increased data-sharing and communication with the public.
 
In summer 2020, COPA sought the Civic Consulting Alliance’s assistance in reaching a number of initial compliance goals, particularly in the area of policy enhancement. To accelerate COPA’s policy progress and ensure that policy changes were made with meaningful and diverse community input, Civic Consulting Alliance secured a team from our pro bono partner Sidley to coordinate and facilitate a Community Policy Review Working Group.
 
“We had worked with COPA previously through our partnership with Civic Consulting Alliance, and were thrilled to have another opportunity to support positive change at the agency and for Chicago.”

Kevin Fee, Partner, Sidley
 
From October to November 2020, the team facilitated multiple feedback sessions with the Community Policy Review Working Group, made up of about 20 community members, activists, faith leaders, subject matter experts, and other system stakeholders. The group produced recommendations on six COPA policies. COPA adopted all of the recommendations and incorporated them into revised policies, which have since been shared with the Independent Monitoring Team (tasked with assessing compliance relative to consent decree requirements) and the Illinois Office of Attorney General (the plaintiff in the court case giving rise to the consent decree) as evidence of COPA’s efforts to comply with requirements.
 
COPA recently reconvened the Community Policy Review Working Group in 2021, utilizing the model developed with Civic Consulting Alliance in 2020 with some additional refinements. COPA’s goal is to have the Group review all COPA policies required for consent decree compliance by the end of 2021.
 
“Gathering feedback has been essential to COPA’s community engagement strategy and with the help of Civic Consulting Alliance and its fresh approach those efforts are extended to the working group. Creating a space and a process for convening community members to discuss COPA policies is a meaningful step towards ensuring that our work is shaped by the communities we serve. We are tremendously grateful to Civic Consulting Alliance and to the Sidley team for their continued support of COPA.”

– Sydney Roberts, Chief Administrator, Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA)
Working Towards a More Just and Equitable
Juvenile Justice System
A February 2020 report from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and the 2019 consent decree found that Chicago’s juvenile justice system is not achieving its goal of reducing youth recidivism, and may re-traumatize youth or increase their likelihood of reoffending—a finding that has significant implications for the thousands of youth who are arrested each year. Both the OIG report and the consent decree call for reforms to the Juvenile Intervention Support Center (JISC), a multiagency, Chicago Police Department (CPD)-run youth diversion center that serves 10 of the city’s 22 police districts—interfacing with about 3,200 youth in 2019. The JISC aims to divert youth arrested for low-level offenses away from the juvenile justice system and into social service case management.
 
Acting swiftly on these findings was a high priority for the City, given the lasting impact encounters with the justice system can have on youths’ lives. Moreover, the City recognized that the current system is unjust and inequitable—with young Black men arrested and incarcerated at significantly higher rates than other groups.
 
The Mayor’s Office and CPD called upon Civic Consulting Alliance to support their efforts to reform the JISC and to rethink what it means to offer Chicago youth an alternative to arrest. From July 2020 through January 2021, Civic Consulting Alliance worked with the Mayor’s Office, the JISC Advisory Council, and the CPD Youth Investigations Division on two approaches to reform, below.
 
Executing Short-Term Reforms
We provided project management and other support to rapidly implement short-term reforms at the JISC. 75% of short-term changes have been made to date, including:
  • Development of “preferred qualifications” for particular jobs at the JISC to ensure that candidates are skilled at working with youth;
  • Integration of a community-based organization (Lawndale Christian Legal Center) to provide case manager support to youth;
  • Identification of a training program to educate JISC staff on topics such as youth development, cultural competence, and trauma-informed interactions; and
  • Execution of data analysis on the times that have the most JISC arrests, and alignment of service provider presence at the JISC to those times.
 
Envisioning a New Diversion Model
We advanced longer-term progress towards a future youth diversion model by:
  • Conducting best practice research—with support from an undergraduate fellow from The Academy Group—and more than 50 interviews with community advocates, subject matter experts, key stakeholders, and peer cities to establish a fact base to inform the model’s design; and
  • Designing a roadmap for the Mayor’s Office and CPD to develop a community-informed model, including identifying seven key elements of this future model.

Equipped with this foundational work, the Mayor’s Office, CPD, and the Department of Family and Support Services aim to develop a new youth diversion model that will: improve service of young people; incorporate community perspectives; and ensure compliance with consent decree requirements and recommendations from the OIG.
 
“While more work remains, we are optimistic that the changes the JISC has made will improve the experience and outcomes of youth in our current juvenile justice system. Moreover, we are hopeful that the planning Civic Consulting Alliance supported will help us collaboratively develop a more equitable, community- and trauma-informed youth diversion model in the near future.”

Patty Casey, Youth Investigations Commander, Chicago Police Department
 
“We deeply appreciate Civic Consulting Alliance’s contributions to our efforts to reform Chicago’s youth diversion model to ensure more positive outcomes for our city’s youth.”

Susan Lee, Special Advisor to the Mayor, City of Chicago
Fellow Spotlights: Andrell Holloway and Steve Browne
What project work were you involved in during your time at Civic Consulting Alliance?

SB: I served the Mayor’s Office Bureau for Economic and Neighborhood Development on INVEST South/West initiatives, the Mayor’s flagship economic development program. I supported a variety of projects, including private sector engagement on development opportunities, spearheading a vacant lot activation project, and contributing to the launch of new Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection Regional Business Centers.

DH: I supported a strategic refresh for the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities (PSPC), to ensure investments have the highest impact to reduce gun violence in Chicago. I led the refresh of PSPC’s Police Reform and Community Engagement, and Gun Policy focus areas to evaluate current investments for continuation or expansion, as well as new or emerging investments aligned to the stated focus area’s theory of change.

What will you take away from your time at Civic Consulting Alliance?

SB: I worked with an incredible variety of people—from urban planners to real estate developers to nonprofit leaders to lifelong city staffers—and just about everyone that I met was incredibly passionate and motivated to serve Chicago. It has made me proud to be a resident of this great city.
Steve Browne is a Senior Associate Consultant at Bain. He was with us from June 2020 to January 2021.
Andrell Holloway is an Associate Director at Protiviti. He was with us from July 2020 to January 2021.
DH: I'll take away the insights I gleaned from 40+ interviews with community members, practitioners, and experts on strategies to reduce gun violence, as well as the personal stories I heard about how gun violence pervasively affects communities. It was also memorable that the refresh coincided with national conversations on social, economic, and racial equity, and rethinking what public safety means. I hope this conversation and momentum helps propel Chicago to realize more than incremental change.  

What was your most memorable experience during your time at Civic Consulting Alliance?

SB: Without a doubt, my work on vacant lots. It allowed me to see different neighborhoods on the South and West Sides, to better understand a persistent issue facing Chicago’s underserved communities, to get a glimpse of the complexity of making tangible change happen, and to feel a sense of reward when we succeeded in making some change.

DH: It was a unique experience to execute the entire six-month project remotely, while still connecting well with the Civic Consulting Alliance team and meeting project objectives. 

How has your time at Civic Consulting Alliance helped you develop professionally?

SB: I’ve developed tremendously as a project manager, analyst, presenter, and thinker. But perhaps most importantly, I have grown as a listener. I’ve been exposed to so many people who are experts in their field, and it’s been my job to hear their perspective, to think through what matters most, and to co-create a plan for what needs to happen next.

DH: My experience reminded me of the need for collaboration and thoughtfulness to identify and evaluate the best solutions—as a working norm. Often in the rush to balance demands or manage reactive responses, the value of taking time for and deliberating on a topic is overlooked. Civic Consulting Alliance's culture set the tone for collaboration, reflection, and thorough discussion of strategies for PSPC to consider.

Civic Consulting Alliance Fellowships are full-time positions that typically last between three months and a year. Fellows are integrated into project teams for a unique professional development opportunity. Please visit our Fellowships page to learn more about our range of fellowship opportunities.
Thank you to our funders!
Civic Consulting Alliance is grateful for the critical support of all of our funders. Since our last newsletter, we were thrilled to receive philanthropic commitments from the following corporations and foundations:
Funders
Intended Impact
We Rise Together strategy creation
INVEST South/West project management
General operating support to advance Civic Consulting Alliance's mission
General operating support to advance Civic Consulting Alliance's mission, and support for management of the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities
Questions? Comments? Contact Marie Akerman