By Andrew Adams
Over the past few months, the Chicago Police Department (CPD) has announced several organizational reforms ranging from command staff changes to restructuring, reassigning, and “regionalizing” more than 1,000 detectives, according to the department. These reforms include new leadership in two local police districts.
Commander Jake Alderden now leads the 1st (Central) District, and Commander Joshua Wallace heads the 2nd (Wentworth) District. Both started their new positions in mid-February.
Michael Pigott previously led the 1st District; he won promotion to commander/executive officer of Area 3. Wallace takes over from Dion Boyd, who stepped up to commander/executive officer of Area 1.
The 1st District holds the Loop, South Loop, and Near South communities. It is bounded by the Chicago River on the north, 31st Street on the south, the lake on the east, and I-90 (the Kennedy Expressway) for almost its entire western border. The 2nd District covers Bronzeville, Douglas, and Hyde Park. It is bounded by 31st Street on the north, 60th and 61st Streets on the south, the lake on the east, and I-90/1-94 (the Dan Ryan Expressway) on the west.
Meet the new commanders
Alderden has served with CPD since 2001, working as a tactical lieutenant and field lieutenant in the 1st District and a watch operations lieutenant in the 2nd District. He said these experiences will give him insight into his new role. “Having been able to have the background, you’re able to understand everyone’s role,” Alderden said.
Alderden has lived in the 1st District for many years. “It’s helped me to live down here to really understand,” he said. “I call this home.” Alderden has a bachelor’s degree in business from Calvin University.
He was among the officers who responded to a mass shooting at Mercy Hospital in November 2018, which ended with four deaths, including one police officer. He and two other officers received honors from the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation to recognize their bravery in the situation.
The 2nd District’s Wallace has worked with CPD since 1999, and he began working in policing 28 years ago in another locale. Wallace started with CPD as a patrolman. “It took me 12 years to become a supervisor,” he said. He has worked in the 6th District, Narcotics Division, and Summer Mobile Patrol Unit, a special unit deployed in summers to address seasonal changes in crime patterns.
Wallace lives in the 2nd District. He has a bachelor’s degree in law enforcement management from Calumet College and is a graduate of the Northwestern School of Police Staff and Command.
According to the Invisible Institute’s Citizen’s Police Data Project database, Wallace has received 28 honorable mentions or awards, more than 80% of officers. Alderden has received 76 honors or awards, more than 93% of officers.
District plans moving forward
The unique responsibilities of policing the 1st District include overseeing the city’s busy center. Alderden said two of his primary focuses are public safety surrounding large events and what he called “quality of life issues,” which includes “people loitering, drinking in the public way, and public urination.”
Public events in the 1st District have gone down dramatically due to the coronavirus (COVID-19). Alderden said the reduction “started with St. Patrick’s Day, and we haven’t had anything since.” Officials canceled the usual tradition of dyeing the Chicago River green and holding a large parade downtown. Nevertheless, Alderden and the 1st District officers continue preparing for large events later this year. “We’re working to make sure all the festivals” organizers and the City do not cancel “are safe,” he said.
The 2nd District also is preparing for summer, a busy time for Chicago police officers, according to Wallace. “When you take over a position like this, you want to hit the ground running,” he said, noting his overarching goal for the coming months is crime reduction. “You should be able to walk these streets without worry,” he said.
Policing in the age of coronavirus
Generally, a district commander oversees operations and officers within the district’s geographic area. Wallace describes the job as highly administrative, saying, “normally, we attend a lot of meetings…a lot of reading reports and addressing concerns.” Wallace added that recent responsibilities have “changed to more protecting the community with regards to the pandemic, protecting our officers with regards to the pandemic.”
The evolving coronavirus pandemic has changed how police departments across the country operate. Wallace noted a shift he has seen. “I think it’s more educational,” he said. In the 2nd District, officers are “conducting daily checkpoints” to educate residents about the pandemic and relevant State and City orders, including the stay-at-home order. “It’s all about flattening the curve,” Wallace said.
Alderden said he places “emphasis on officer safety.” In both districts, the CPD has issued officers personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves. According to Wallace, equipment includes N95 masks. Alderden’s experience has been surreal. “No one, at least in my circle, knew what an N95 was,” he noted. “I never would have ever believed it would be like this.” Police and cleaning personnel regularly decontaminate common surfaces such as light switches, radios, and patrol cars.
Wallace added he is focusing on trying to understand what will come after the pandemic, asking himself, “What is policing going to look like? Honestly, it’s hard to tell. You want to say, we’ll go back to business as usual, but I don’t know. We have to protect the community.”
The 1st District police station is at 1718 S. State St. Call (312) 745-4290 The 2nd District police station is at 5101 S. Wentworth Ave. Call (312) 747-8366.