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Chicago's police missed the mark with their safety tips. Here's what they could have done.

Crawling back from a generation of corruption needs to be handled with care.

Chicago's police missed the mark with their safety tips. Here's what they could have done.

On Aug. 7, 2015, the Chicago Police Department offered some "tips" on how to stay safe in any neighborhood.

On Twitter, the department shared a list of 14 suggestions for people to follow. While it's framed as general "how to stay safe" advice, when you start reading the list, it seems — weirdly — more like a guide on how to stay safe from the police.


Image from Chicago Police Department/Twitter.

Some Twitter users took the department to task for the list, accusing the department of blaming victims of police brutality.

Some pointed out that this list comes off a bit like the types of victim-blaming tips you see advising women on how not to get raped.

  • "Be smart about with whom, when, and where you hang out?"
  • "Avoid playing the music loudly?"
  • "Confrontation leads to confrontation?"

Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images.

Isn't it supposed to be the police's job to de-escalate situations? Maybe the police should spend put together "tips" for how officers can avoid shooting unarmed people?

And Twitter user @NovaTess made a few "edits" to the list of tips:

  1. Cops, remember that your actions and attitude can impact the situation positively or negatively.
  2. Remember that every person, and every black man in particular, is not a criminal.
  3. Be smart — don't lie. For whom, when, and where is irrelevant.
  4. Do not shoot when dealing with unarmed people.
  5. Cops, do not curse or raise your voices — stay calm. Remember — confrontation leads to confrontations ... especially when you whip out your guns.
  6. Keep your hands off your gun unless confronted with deadly imminent force.
  7. If you pull someone over, don't shoot them because they don't have a license.
  8. Before shooting someone, ask if they have any illegal weapons that they plan on shooting you with in the next few seconds. If they don't, don't shoot.

Of the 10 largest cities in the country, Chicago has had more police-involved shootings than any other.

A report by the Better Government Association uncovered some concerning pieces of data. For example, nearly 60% of all shootings occurred in the police districts located in Calumet, Deering, Englewood, Grand Crossing, Gresham, and Morgan Park. For areas that account for just a small fraction of the city's population, 41 people have been killed by police in the past five years.


Data source: Better Government Association. BGA notes that New York did not provide 2014 data.

The Chicago Police Department has a gruesome past when it comes to excessive force, brutality, and shootings.

Between 1972 and 1991 under former detective Jon Burge's command, more than 100 suspects were tortured into providing coerced confessions. Burge's crimes are often credited for being what led Illinois to put an end to the state death penalty, after former Gov. George Ryan emptied death row and pardoned four of Burge's torture victims in 2003.

In April 2015, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that the city would be creating a $5.5 million reparations fund for Burge's living survivors.

In February 2015, The Guardian ran a report about a "black site" located in a warehouse at Homan Square. The paper describes it as "an off-the-books interrogation compound, rendering Americans unable to be found by family or attorneys while locked inside what lawyers say is the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site."

The Homan Square "black site." Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

And cover-ups within oversight departments don't particularly help matters.

The Independent Police Review Authority, the group that the Chicago Police Department's "tips" advise the public take their complaints to, has investigated hundreds of police shootings since 2007 (this figure includes non-fatal shootings), with only a few found as "not justified" and just one where they recommended an officer be fired for a shooting.

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

In July 2015, IPRA Supervising Investigator Lorenzo Davis was fired from the department after he refused to clear six officers he found had been involved in unjustified shootings. Despite the fact that Davis had been working with the police department for more than two decades, he received a performance evaluation that said he "displays a complete lack of objectivity combined with a clear bias against the police."

Instead of offering "tips" on how not to become a victim of police brutality, perhaps the Chicago PD should follow the lead of Austin, Texas.

While Chicago's police have a document outlining the "rights" of anyone stopped by police ("You will be treated with dignity and respect," forbidding of racial profiling or physical violence, and so on), they could do a lot of good by instead putting together a comprehensive list of expectations their officers should be held to. A great example is the easily accessible document used by the Austin, Texas, police force.

Austin's Law Enforcement Code of Ethics document provides a solid outline for how to interact with the public and, more importantly, puts the onus on maintaining a peaceful situation on the officer.

What should the list sent out by Chicago's police have looked like? Maybe a bit like this:

"As a law enforcement officer, my fundamental duty is to serve the community; to safeguard lives and property. ... I will maintain courageous calm in the face of danger, scorn or ridicule; develop self-­restraint; and be constantly mindful of the welfare of others. ... I will enforce the law courteously and appropriately without fear or favor, malice or ill will, never employing unnecessary force or violence. ... I recognize the badge of my office as a symbol of public faith, and I accept it as a public trust to be held so long as I am true to the ethics of police service. ... I know that I alone am responsible for my own standard of professional performance. ... I will constantly strive to achieve these objectives and ideals."

Sadly, Austin has its own issues involving shootings and brutality claims. But the messaging in on point.

It's an officer's responsibility to control any situation that gets thrown their way. While many do a great job of keeping the peace, others seem not to have gotten that memo.

If instead of tweeting out a list of rules for the public to follow, the department tweeted out a list of standards to which their officers should be held, the police might begin regain the public's trust and put to rest its controversial past.

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

The difference between a politician and a public servant may be a matter of semantics, but when it comes to getting legislation passed that actually helps people, the contrast is stark.

Texas Representative James Talarico is on a mission to get his constituents the life-saving medicine they need. The 31-year-old lawmaker has just introduced legislation that would cap the price of insulin—a medicine people with type 1 diabetes need to live, which has become unaffordable for many—at $50 a month.

The mission is personal for Talarico, as he nearly died three years ago when he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

He shared his story on Twitter:

"In May 2018, I was a healthy 28-year-old running for the Texas House. I decided to walk the entire length of my district and hold town halls along the way. I hike Big Bend every year, so I wasn't concerned about a 25 mile walk...

But halfway through the walk, I began feeling nauseous and fatigued. Before the town hall in Hutto, I vomited in the bathroom."

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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