Julia Kline, a former CPS educator and current independent coach and consultant, is running for representative of the Chicago Police Department’s 2nd District Council.
District Councils are new community-elected bodies in each of CPD’s 22 districts. The councils will be tasked with holding monthly public meetings and building stronger relations between the police and community at the local level through gathering public input and developing restorative justice programs.
The 2nd District Council area runs roughly from 31st to 60th Street and the Dan Ryan Expressway to the lakefront; it includes most of Bronzeville, Kenwood and Hyde Park.
Kline was raised in Wilmette by parents who she described as “radical lefties.” She attended New Trier High School and matriculated at St. Olaf College in Minnesota in 1988, where she earned a bachelor’s in history. She moved to the North Side of Chicago and began her career as a teacher in 1992 in Chicago Public Schools, simultaneously working as a Mary Kay sales representative and completing a master’s degree in elementary education and teaching at National Louis University.
She pivoted into real estate and investing and sales in 2000, saying she became a millionaire by the time she was 30 years old, before going bankrupt in the 2008 financial crisis. Since then, Kline has been a self-employed coach and consultant. Most recently, she’s been working on fundraising for Envision Unlimited, a Chicago nonprofit that serves adults with disabilities.
Kline moved to Hyde Park in 2019, saying she was already familiar with the area in part because of her involvement with Indivisible Chicago-South Side, a chapter of the citywide progressive coalition, and other local activist organizations.
Her desire to serve on the council, she said, comes in large part from her own early experiences with abuse as the survivor of childhood sexual assault. Her passion, she said, is “supporting survivors, as well as reducing the harm from abusers and holding abusers accountable.”
In 2017, Kline created a blog focused on “healing from the abuses of power” that later grew into a podcast called “Solving MeToo.” The podcast, she said, is based on the hypothesis that “we need to use restorative justice to heal toxic workplaces and hold the most powerful people in our corporate culture accountable.”
Through this work she said she has engaged in thoughtful conversations from all angles on the question of how to reduce harm without punitive action.
“If we, as a society, did a better job of identifying at-risk people, and providing real support, that help(s) people in our communities who are clearly spiraling, that is the best way to keep us all safe,” Kline said. “Hurt people hurt people.”
“Incarceration and surveillance and punishment is not how we prevent carjackings and prevent murders and prevent (sexual assaults). The way we prevent those crimes is by recognizing how deeply hurt our communities are, and how much our communities need.”
She said she was also inspired to run by her time flyering with the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (CAARPR), one of the organizations that spearheaded efforts to create the District Councils.
Kline said her understanding of the council’s purpose is to hold CPD accountable for the criminal actions of some of its officers, which are insufficiently dealt with. Many officers “have double digits of accusations of misconduct against them,” she added.
She said officers that commit this kind of misconduct should be taken off the police payroll, “if for no other reason than because these are the kinds of people that are very likely to cost the city another million dollars (in settlements) the next time they do something wrong.”
In 2022, CPD received about $1.7 billion in funding, or about 65% of the city’s public safety spending, “And a whole lot of it goes to overtime, which is terrible,” she said.
“Millions of dollars that should be invested in mental health health resources, or circle keeping, or any of our education or health care or housing, or any of the things that will actually stem violence and actually keep us safe,” she said. Kline added that clustering officers at a protest, for example, is a poor use of resources.
One of the council’s missions is to amplify existing restorative justice practices, and Kline noted that she already has and continues to seek out relationships with mental health practitioners, restorative justice practitioners, independent therapists and people with knowledge of what resources are and are not available from the city and state.
She said one of her questions about running for the district council was representing a mostly Black community as a white person; but when she reached out to neighbors she found that they supported her. “So I made sure to secure support before I made the decision to run.” She noted that young Black men often do not feel safer around police; however, she also acknowledged that this is not a monolithic view within the Black community.
“I’m too much of a pragmatist to ever suggest that we need to get rid of police, I would never suggest that,” she said. “But to me it just feels self evident that there are too many police and they are doing things that are not the right things.”
She pointed to neighborhoods like Englewood and Austin as examples that a high level of policing does not equate to a decrease in violence or response times.
Kline said if elected she would balance the role with her other work and expects to continue her work as an organizer, which she already spends 15 to 20 hours on weekly. (The council representatives will get a $500 monthly stipend with an expectation of 20 hours of work per month.)
She is among four candidates running for the three open positions: Ephraim Lee, Coston Plumber and Alexander J. Perez. Kline said that she and Plummer are in “lock-step” and have supported each other since meeting at the start of their campaigns.
Council members are elected to four-year terms beginning in 2023; they must live in the district and cannot have been affiliated with the Chicago Police for at least three years prior.
Representatives on District Councils will also have the power to nominate candidates to serve on the seven-member citywide Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability, which can institute department-wide reforms. Candidates will then be appointed by the mayor and approved by alderpersons.
Because the council is new, she said “we are building this airplane while we’re trying to fly it … Everybody is wondering the extent to which we will actually be empowered to do anything, and the extent to which we’re going to be blown off.”
Kline has also volunteered at the Saturday food pantry at Hyde Park Union Church; and is involved in Rainbow PUSH, the League of Women Voters and Neighbors Who Vote, having helped with voter registration and candidate forums.
Residents will vote for three candidates in the city’s municipal election on February 28.