Public Safety Advisory Council to conduct community survey

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to remove references to two May forums, which are being rescheduled for the fall.

Last year, the University of Chicago launched the Public Safety Advisory Council, a formal mechanism for obtaining community input on issues impacting safety and security on campus and in the University of Chicago Police Department extended patrol area.

Since then, council representatives from various stakeholder groups within the University and South Side communities have met to outline plans for future work, which include a comprehensive community public safety survey.

Sharon R. Fairley, Professor from Practice in the Law School and chair of the council, provided an update on the council and its progress.

What is the nature of the Public Safety Advisory Council’s work?

The council is a group of 15 members of the University and surrounding community that will provide advice and counsel on public safety issues. Its charge is to:

  • Identify and discuss issues affecting safety on campus and within the adjacent neighborhoods UCPD serves.
  • Collaborate with UCPD and the Department of Safety and Security (DSS) in the development of policies and programs that support bias-free, community-driven policing.
  • Review and provide recommendations related to existing and proposed policies, practices or protocols that directly impact police-community interaction.
  • Develop and implement practices or protocols for obtaining regular community feedback on the performance of the University’s public safety operations.
  • Review and report on UCPD metrics of community concern (e.g., use of force, traffic stops, citizen complaints).
  • Assist UCPD in developing strategies and programs to inform the University community about public safety issues and DSS/UCPD operations and initiatives.

Many universities have undertaken similar processes to reimagine public safety. Creating this council signifies the University’s commitment to these issues and desire to seek input from the community via this diverse group of independent stakeholders.

What was the selection process for council representatives?

We announced an open call for applications and received submissions from individuals interested in serving on the Public Safety Advisory Council. Representatives were selected after a thorough application review process and were appointed in early 2023. The goal was to convene a group that represents our diverse community, and I think we have done just that. Our council members are extremely knowledgeable, committed, and excited to represent the community and offer guidance on public safety. They have a wide variety of perspectives and all of them care very deeply about this community.

What progress has been made since the council’s formation?

The council is off to a great start. Council members participated in an orientation session, and we held our first public meeting in April. Beginning this fall, we will host public forums to give people an overview of the council’s mission and to gather feedback on our upcoming projects. We look forward to creating additional opportunities for engaging with the community on public safety issues at the start of the 2023–2024 academic year. 

The council plans to conduct a community public safety survey. What will that entail?

The council has commissioned a survey that will be developed and led by NORC at the University of Chicago, which has broad experience conducting surveys on public safety issues. The survey will:

  • Examine the most prevalent pressing public safety concerns as identified by University students, staff, and faculty, along with residents of surrounding neighborhoods patrolled by UCPD.
  • Identify how public safety priorities and concerns vary across different constituencies and demographic and psychographic segments of the community.
  • Measure the level of awareness and satisfaction with specific DSS and UCPD programs and practices.
  • Gauge perceptions of UCPD effectiveness on relevant attributes and public safety functions and the University’s commitment to public safety, both on campus and in the surrounding area.
  • Assess the level of understanding of the intersecting roles/responsibilities of UCPD and the Chicago Police Department.

How will the survey be created and implemented?

We are currently seeking community input on the survey process and content. We hope to learn more about the issues and concerns of most interest to the community to ensure that the study provides valuable insights that will guide the work of the council going forward. It will likely take approximately 20 months from creation to completion, and the results will be made publicly available.

How can people learn more about the survey (and the council in general) and share input?

Beginning with the 2023–2024 academic year, the council will host public forums on a quarterly basis. We will share progress about the survey and other upcoming initiatives on the council website and always welcome feedback via email at