The Community Engagement Team is a critical part of the Independent Monitoring Team and embodies our collaborative approach to this monitoring work. The Community Engagement Team is comprised of experienced Chicago community members, experts in police-community relations, lawyers, and academic scholars. These members work together to meaningfully engage Chicago’s communities and ensure their participation throughout the monitoring process. The Community Engagement Team will also work closely with the Monitor, Deputy Monitors, and Associate Monitors to assess the community component of compliance with the consent decree.
Elena Quintana, PhD, is a clinical psychologist, and the Executive Director of the Institute on Public Safety and Social Justice at Adler University in downtown Chicago. Dr. Quintana focuses on creating programs, research, and events that promote socially just solutions to public safety challenges. Dr. Quintana creates strategic partnerships with community members and community-based agencies, law enforcement, detention facility staff and inmates, universities, and governments. Her work focuses on violence prevention, reentry, therapeutic approaches to dealing with trauma and immigration, and methods to address racial equity. Dr. Quintana’s has unique experience working with both Cease Fire, (now known as Cure Violence) and with Chicago Police Department officers. Dr. Quintana resides in Chicago speaks Spanish fluently.
Joe Hoereth, PhD, is an urban planner who regularly engages with Chicago communities through his position as Director of the Institute for Policy and Civic Engagement (IPCE) at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). Dr. Hoereth creates opportunities for scholars, community members, students, and the government to participate in public discourse and educational programs addressing current policy issues and social trends. Dr. Hoereth has expertise in community development research and evaluation, having previously worked for university research centers, non-profit organizations, and private consulting firms. He has conducted research projects on urban housing and comprehensive community building and has also authored multiple reports and papers on housing, community economic development, community engagement, and urban planning. Dr. Hoereth, along with his colleagues at IPCE and the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago, will conduct community surveys and special studies throughout the project. Dr. Hoereth resides in Chicago’s south suburbs.
Laura McElroy worked as a television news anchor and reporter and an agency communications director for 26 years. In her work, she dealt with nearly every imaginable police-related news story and can guide government agencies to transparently manage high-profile crises. Ms. McElroy has helped leaders effectively manage worst-case scenarios, including racially tense officer-involved shootings, political protests, a sex scandal at a public agency, negligent death cases including the death of a child in protective service care, and police officers involved in criminal activity. During her 11 years as the communication director of a large police department, she established new levels of transparency and accountability while helping improve public trust in the department. In this role, Ms. McElroy also created new partnerships with activists, community groups and business leaders, and the local media.
Through her work with the Department of Justice and CNA, Ms. McElroy engages with law enforcement agencies around the country, sharing best practices in crisis communication, media relations, social media, and community outreach.
Sodiqa Williams, Esq, is a highly respected advocate who works to support the interests of the Chicago community. She serves as the Vice President of External Affairs and General Counsel at the Safer Foundation, an organization well-known as an experienced advocate and provider of workforce and support services exclusively for people with arrest and conviction records in the greater Chicago area.
With a keen understanding of governmental processes, Ms. Williams advocates nationally and locally to advance a progressive agenda for people with records, including promoting policies and practices that reduce recidivism, eliminating barriers to reentry, creating job opportunities, and educating employers about fair hiring practices. Before joining the Safer Foundation, Ms. Williams served as speechwriter and Senior Advisor to two American Bar Association presidents. She also worked at a public relations and government affairs firm and for 8th Ward Alderwoman Michelle Harris and then-Lt. Governor Pat Quinn, using her aptitude for grasping the intricacies of city and state politics. Ms. Williams is from a Chicago policing family, lending her a unique ability to understand the challenges communities and the police face in Chicago. She lives in Chicago’s south suburbs.
Stephen Rickman, MA, is an expert in police-community relations. He has worked for over 20 years in high-level positions in public safety and community support. Mr. Rickman is currently an Associate Monitor on the Independent Monitoring Team for the Albuquerque Police Department’s Court Approved Settlement Agreement and a former Director of the Department of Justice (DOJ) Weed and Seed Program. He is also a former Division Director for the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, and a member of the Federal Government’s Senior Executive Service. Mr. Rickman served as the Technical Advisor to President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.
Steve also has experience working in Chicago, having overseen several Chicago-area Weed and Seed sites. Finally, Steve’s parents and grandparents were Chicagoans, and he has spent time in the city throughout his life. As the Associate Monitor for Community Policing, Mr. Rickman is will work closely with the Community Engagement Team.
Tom Christoff, PhD, is a criminologist and currently serves on the team providing the independent compliance assessment of a Settlement Agreement between the DOJ and the City of Portland, Oregon. Dr. Christoff works with the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) to develop systems of force auditing, crisis response, training, Employee Information System (EIS), accountability, and community engagement. Dr. Christoff further provides detailed technical assistance to move the PPB toward compliance. He has analyzed large data sets detailing use of force, force audits, EIS, and officer surveys to measure both processes and outcomes.
In addition, Dr. Christoff has expertise in police responses to people with mental illness and people who are facing mental health crises. He earned his master’s degree at the University of Memphis, working with the authors of the Memphis Model Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) to train officers and develop CIT programs. Dr. Christoff earned his doctorate at the University of Illinois at Chicago and lives in the Chicagoland area.