Rafael Yañez candidate for 15th Ward Alderman statement on No Cop Academy

Rafael Yañez candidate for 15th ward alderman

March 5, 2019

The Sun Times Editorial Board recently released an op-ed in support of the new $95 million training facility. As a police officer and a father, I feel compelled to speak out against the ongoing effort to distract us from real police accountability in Chicago. The proposed $95 million training facility will not transform the police department or improve the lives of Chicagoans. We have a unique opportunity to chart a different course and I am calling on the current City Council to halt any further votes on the police academy contract.  

The recent sentencing of Jason Van Dyke was yet another painful reminder that Chicago is still a city that does not value black lives. There are black youth in prison for far longer than ex-officer Van Dyke will serve, who have done far less. As a city, we failed Laquan McDonald long before he met Jason Van Dyke. We failed him when he was expelled in 4th grade. We failed him when he was arrested two to three times a week. Laquan McDonald deserved so much more from our city. He deserved a fully funded neighborhood school with wrap around supports and restorative practices. But instead, we spend increasingly more on policing, over 40% of the city budget, while we divest from schools and mental health and social services.

My experience as police officer and as a youth mentor tells me that we do not need a new $95 million police academy. I became a police officer because I wanted to be a resource to my community. I don’t claim to have all the answers, but my 15 years of experience have shown me that we cannot continue to rely on the police department as our sole form of violence prevention.

If we truly want to build a safer Chicago, we must address the root causes of violence. In my ward, school budgets have been cut by $10 million over the last 5 years. On the west side, schools would need at least $100 million to be fully funded. Why are we working harder to find money for a new police academy than for our children’s education and emotional wellbeing?

It’s true that the Department of Justice report, among many other things, calls for better training, which is already being implemented. But training is not the magic solution. I do not believe that lack of training led Jason Van Dyke to shoot Laquan McDonald 16 times. More training, and certainly not a a new building, will not change issues of oversight or the culture within the police department that allows systemic abuse of power to occur.  We must re-center community and ensure the police department is accountable to Chicago residents.  

Our responsibility as a city is to invest in our people, not in buildings. Black youth in Chicago have organized and sent a clear message to City Council, invest in community, not a $95 million new police academy. We must commit ourselves to working towards their vision for Chicago.

Our responsibility as a city is to invest in our people, not in buildings. Black youth in Chicago have organized and sent a clear message to City Council, invest in community, not a $95 million new police academy. We must commit ourselves to working towards their vision for Chicago.

Rafael Yañez