Building a better Chicago Park District
Message from Acting General Superintendent and CEO, Rosa Escareño:
Since becoming superintendent in October 2021, my primary goal has been to build a Chicago Park District rooted in safety, respect, accountability, and transparency. Misconduct is not and will never be tolerated in the Park District. We work diligently every day to ensure this is the case and to make the necessary changes that will restore trust with our employees and the community. As we learn from the past and move forward in this new direction, we are committed to open dialogue and increased transparency – an important part of building trust and building a better and stronger Park District. This webpage serves as a clearinghouse of the steps we are taking to ensure the highest level of security and accountability in the future.
- What steps is the Park District taking to ensure the safety and accountability of all employees and customers?
Misconduct is not and will never be tolerated in the Chicago Park District. It starts with holding wrongdoers accountable – to that end, the Park District has followed the recommendations of the Office of Inspector General and taken appropriate disciplinary action in all cases where allegations of misconduct have been sustained. Additionally, we are adopting policy and organizational changes to ensure that all employees and customers are protected and heard; and improve transparency and communication to raise awareness within our agency and with our clients of the changes being implemented.
In direct response to the results of the misconduct investigations, the Park District has taken the following actions:
- 16 employees were terminated, resigned while under investigation, or were asked to resign. This includes supervisors and senior managers who have not reported misconduct.
- Implemented a robust training program throughout the Park District, with an emphasis on workplace policies and proper reporting. This includes sexual harassment training for the entire district – more than 3,000 employees – and intensive two-week training specifically for the aquatic department.
- Launched a review of our policies and procedures and leadership structure to address systemic issues and bring greater transparency and accountability to the Park District.
- Funding a new Office of Prevention and Accountability to ensure that all allegations of misconduct are dealt with promptly, completely and fairly.
This new Office of Prevention and Accountability will serve as a dedicated resource for all employees and customers to report misconduct – it’s a critical part of the Park District’s plan to create an equitable, inclusive work and play environment. , safe and respectful. The Bureau, the first of its kind in the Park District, will be empowered to prevent misconduct and hold wrongdoers accountable through fair, independent and thorough investigations into allegations of misconduct by park employees and patrons. These allegations may include, but are not limited to, complaints of discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, workplace violence, abuse and neglect of children or vulnerable adults and reprisals.
In January 2022, after strong engagement with experts in the field, we drafted and introduced code-amendment legislation to formally establish this office and give it the power to conduct investigations. We encourage everyone to check out the proposed changes to the Code as we strive to better protect our fleets’ most valuable assets – our customers and employees.
- What changes are being implemented to support lifeguards, especially younger ones, at Chicago beaches and pools in 2022?
The Chicago Park District Aquatic Department is considered the gold standard for water safety, and each year our lifeguards undergo extensive training to ensure our beaches and pools are safe for all guests. For many young rescuers, this is the start of a successful career. We build on this commitment and work diligently to ensure that all lifeguards, especially younger ones, enjoy the highest level of safety and protection in their employment with the Chicago Park District. Potential rescuers can expect the following changes starting this summer:
- Stronger management oversight to ensure accountability at each beach and pool;
- Improved training of management personnel to recognize, prevent and report misconduct;
- A new, comprehensive orientation program for all summer seasonal lifeguards focused on creating a positive, safe, supportive and professional workplace. The training will build on the intensive water safety training that lifeguards already receive and will focus on workplace policies, character and leadership.
- Additional new training for summer lifeguards to recognize and prevent sexual misconduct, including proper conduct outside of work hours/places and use of social media. This training will also ensure that all lifeguards know where to go to report and receive support if they experience misconduct;
- A new voluntary orientation opportunity for parents of children working in aquatics programs;
- A fully established prevention and accountability office that will ensure that all Chicago lifeguards, as well as all other park employees and customers, have a dedicated office to report and investigate misconduct.
The public can be sure that all lifeguards in Chicago this summer will be well trained in preventing misconduct and reporting it to the new Office of Prevention and Accountability. We are setting a new direction for the Chicago Park District, one rooted in safety, accountability, and transparency.
As the summer beach and outdoor pool season approaches, we are also closely reviewing all of our policies and procedures to address systemic issues and bring more accountability to the Park District. To this end, we are:
- Train all current and incoming seasonal summer lifeguards on ways to prevent misconduct and how to report and where to go for information and assistance if they experience misconduct; Note: The Park District will enhance our training and education materials through the new Office of Prevention and Accountability to ensure all employees know how to report misconduct and receive support if they are victimized. misbehavior.
- Host a series of roundtables and listening sessions to hear from current and past employees, parents and community members to engage in robust dialogue and ensure the highest level of accountability and safety;
- Collaborate with experts in sexual misconduct prevention and aquatic management to ensure we have systems in place to prevent future misconduct.
We look forward to sharing more details as we continue this important work. Please check for updates.
Anyone interested in applying to be a summer lifeguard can find information here: Apply to be a lifeguard.
- Where can I learn more about misconduct investigations in the Chicago Park District?
The latest information regarding the Aquatic Service misconduct investigation can be found at the Chicago Park District’s Office of Inspector General websiteincluding the Annual report 2021. In addition, the law firm Arnold & Porter conducted an investigation into the actions of Park District management in response to these allegations – which report is on the Council of Commissioners webpage.
- Where can Park District employees and members of the public report misconduct?
Park District employees who experience or witness discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, workplace violence, abuse and neglect of children or vulnerable adults, and of retaliation may report such misconduct to the Department of Human Resources at (312) 742-4496 or [email protected]. Once the new Office of Prevention and Accountability is fully established, new information on where to report can be found here.
Other complaints related to waste, misuse and fraud should be reported to the Office of Inspector General at (312) 742-3333 or through their online complaint form.
Members of the public may submit all allegations of misconduct directly to the Office of Inspector General at (312) 742-3333 or through their online complaint form.
- Where can victims of sexual violence receive confidential support?
All victims or survivors of sexual violence can access immediate support and crisis intervention through the Chicago Rape Crisis Hotline by calling 888-293-2080 in the Chicago area. The Rape Crisis Hotline operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Additionally, text and chat services are available Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Central Time. To use the Chat in English Where spanish cat, users must be at least 13 years old. If under 13, users will be directed to call or text the Rape Crisis Hotline at (888) 293-2080. No user fees, only standard messaging rates apply.
Additionally, the Park District will enhance our training and education materials through the new Office of Prevention and Accountability to ensure all employees know how to report misconduct and receive support if they are victimized. of bad conduct. People who report misconduct will receive direct information on how to receive confidential support.
- How can members of the public make their voices heard?
Members of the public can submit comments, compliments or complaints through the web form located at the bottom of this page.
Additionally, the Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners can be reached by phone at (312) 742-5034 or by email at [email protected] (if your message is directed to a specific board member, please indicate this in your email). Members of the public will have the opportunity to address Council during the “People in the Parks” section of all public meetings. All submissions must be received no later than 4:00 p.m. on the Monday prior to the meeting. For more details on council meetings, visit the council’s website. For more information on speaking at board meetings, visit Speaking at Council of Commissioners meetings.
The public is invited to share comments, compliments or complaints via the following form.