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U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Community Oriented Policing Services
Roderique McClain, a 13-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department, shares his personal story working as a Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) officer, specifically focused on Chicago’s senior population.
So often people only think of policing as uniformed officers chasing down people in the street and locking up bad guys, or pulling over the innocent person who is driving a little too fast because they are late for work. Often, people are shocked to hear of the various community policing programs across the country that promote non-enforcement activities with community members. In Chicago, the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) Office promotes strong and vital partnerships between the police, residents, and city agencies to proactively identify and solve neighborhood crime problems.
As a Chicago police officer for the past 13 years, I have had the opportunity to work in several units and districts. This past year, I have been assigned to the CAPS Office, focusing on building relationships with senior citizens. This has been such a rewarding experience!
Every police district in Chicago has a senior subcommittee and my district meets with our senior subcommittee on the third Tuesday of each month. Here we discuss plans for the upcoming month, including any events, future birthdays, and volunteer opportunities. We also have guest speakers come out and talk to the seniors about miscellaneous programs. Through these subcommittee meetings, we have taken seniors to White Sox Baseball games, various outings to restaurants and movie theaters, and sightseeing trips around the city.
Our community organizer, Faleesa Square, works closely with me to help coordinate every event. We have hosted a number of events, including a Valentine's Day appreciation brunch and an energy efficiency fair (with State Representative Sonya Harper) to educate seniors on ways to save on utility and gas bills. The seniors have participated in our program, Books Instead of Bullets, where they helped read to the youth. We have gone to tapings of the Judge Mathis Show, attended the circus, visited various museums, and even taken a trip to the Chicago Skydeck in the Willis Tower (formally the Sears Tower).
In August, we participated in National Night Out and invited our seniors to help volunteer. They had a blast! We set up a booth with games and registered other seniors to join and attend meetings.
We also registered seniors for emergency medical bracelets, which are so important for safety and health. The bracelets provide a unique identification number for seniors, along with the phone number of the nearest police station to the senior’s residence. These bracelets are essential to our senior residents because they help first responders identify critical information, including emergency contacts, blood type, home address, allergies, ailments, medical conditions and medications, and even doctors’ names and phone numbers. We provide these bracelets free of charge.
Because of the success of our senior subcommittee meetings, I have taken the initiative to engage our seniors in other ways. I now host monthly Coffee With a Cop events at the various senior living facilities in the district. This has provided a great opportunity for seniors to meet with me and other district officers, and to help them learn about officers as humans, not just law enforcement personnel. During one of the events, one of our sergeants shared hilarious stories about growing up in the South. He kept the seniors laughing for about two hours! I always find it amusing to see how excited the seniors get when I show up, pour a cup of coffee, and just celebrate them.
I look at my seniors as though they are my parents and grandparents. I always greet them with big welcoming hugs, kisses on the cheeks, and respectable handshakes to all of my men. I am often heard saying to them, “Just because you're a senior, doesn't mean that you're old!"—which is usually met with handclaps and amens.
When one of the seniors shared with me that she had no one to call for emergencies, I gave her my cell phone number and let her know that, now, she has someone to call. My seniors will call me on and off duty just to chat. I often think about what it must be like to have family and friends, but to have no one to depend on.
There is an elder gentleman, who I see monthly at one of the senior facilities, who used to be a boxer. Every time I see him, I put my hands up and let him throw a couple of combinations. Amazingly, he is still very fast! Another gentleman there has a very nice singing voice and often gives me updates on how his YouTube singing is going. Another senior calls our station every time the winds blow too hard because the shingles blow off the neighboring house into her yard. She has no one else to call to remove them, so one of my fellow officers and I happily go and help her.
I am thankful to have been able to meet and interact with so many seniors. They truly have made a positive impact on my career and my life, and I hope I have done the same for them.
To learn more about CAPS, see the Chicago Police Department.
Officer Roderique McClain
Chicago Police Department
007th District CAPS
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