Cindy Guerra Becomes First Latina Chief of NEIU Police

She takes the Interim role after Chief John Escalante retired with almost four decades of service in law enforcement

Photo Credits: NEIU Police Department Facebook Page

Photo Credits: NEIU Police Department Facebook Page

Erwin Lopez Rada, News Editor

On her last day at the Chicago Police Department (CPD), Lieutenant Cindy Guerra made a trip to the outskirts of Chicago to visit Officer Skip, her now retired horse mount, whom she rode during the five years of her assignment as the first Latina in the Mounted Unit. Her old partner, now retired for three years, wore the toll of time on his coat and stressed spine as he moved around with the calmness of someone who has retired for good.

 

“It is now my time,” she gently told the horse, petting his face while making sure her crisp Chicago Police officer uniform remained clean. She was at the stables to officially celebrate Women’s Month, and her retirement, for a CPD media release. Her assignment to the Mounted Unit 22 years ago had been just one of the many meaningful circumstances in life where she would find herself being the first.

Guerra, a psychology graduate from Adler University who retired from CPD after 27 years of service, made another first when she assumed the role as the first Latina to be named interim Chief of NEIU Police following Chief John Escalante’s decision to retire on August 5. 

 

She also became one of the few women in law enforcement that made it to the top of a police force, not a strange fact given that only 13 percent of police officers in America are women. The Pew Research Center found in its research that the presence of policewomen in crime scenes generally ends with better outcomes for the victims and seldom escalation of incidents.      

 

When asked about her newest career achievement, Interim Chief Guerra said, “Education is key! Having an open mind to learn and try different things. To all my Latinas in Chicago, I say you can be anything you want to be. Break barriers. You can achieve all your goals and dreams. It will not be easy but believe in yourself, because you are worthy and capable!”

 

Interim Chief Guerra came to NEIU by the suggestion of her predecessor, John J. Escalante,  who brought her on board as Assistant Administrative Director of NEIU Police. 

The Independent talked to Escalante, who is busy with his new job as Executive Director of Public Safety at Elmhurst University. He said he was in need of help with running the NEIU Police Department (NEIUPD) and was also thinking of a suitable successor. “I hope she is given the support from the administration to do her job,” he added. 

Escalante said that Interim Chief Guerra was his subordinate while he was CPD Chief of Patrol. He said, “She did a great job addressing the safety needs at these schools. Which included three high schools and a dozen grammar schools. She always received positive reviews from the school staff and students and from the officers she supervised.”

 

Interim Chief Guerra had already taken a position in another law enforcement agency out of state but she had to come back to Chicago to care for her family. “That is an important part of my identity as a Latina, family is my number one priority,” she said.

 

An email sent to the NEIU community on behalf of Finance Vice President Manish Kumar described Ms. Guerra as a “bilingual officer certified in de-escalation and crisis intervention, Guerra steps into this interim post with a solid service record.”

 

Guerra accrued a distinguished record at CPD, serving in her last five years as spokesperson and communications officer for Chicago’s law enforcement agency. She never used her weapon while on duty, was reprimanded for a complaint of use of excessive force within her first years at the job, and was reported using force less than a dozen times in almost three decades even though she often worked in some of the most eventful neighborhoods in the city. At Fairfax County, Virginia, where she was set to go after CPD, the police department described her as specialized in communications and officer wellness. 

 

Interim Chief Guerra brings all her experience to a team of less than 30 – including officers and administrative staff – that serves one of the safest campuses in the state. NEIUPD is also a well trained force that is one of the few accredited by the Illinois Law Enforcement Accreditation Program (ILEAP)

ILEAP standards correspond with the expectations of performance that the state of Illinois sets for its police departments. These include certification of training, through documentation and direct observation, as well as how organized the processes are within police departments. 

Meeting those standards is badly needed in this era of mass shootings in schools across the United States. Interim Chief Guerra said that the Uvalde’s mass shooting sparked conversations within NEIU police officers about how to respond in case of an active shooter scenario at any of the school’s campuses, given the facts of what happened there. 

Guerra said that she is planning to provide her officers with tools to keep doing their job well and will propose activities to make safety against active shooters and other menaces a community effort. She said awareness is the most important aspect to achieve a sensation of safety, but that people often have their faces “buried in their phones.” 

Interim Chief Guerra said that “we should be able to equally enjoy our constitutional rights” but reminded the NEIU community that section 65 of the Firearms Concealed Carry Act of Illinois prohibits the possession of any kind of gun on school property. She added that if law-abiding firearm owners from the NEIU community want to reach out to the department for training resources on gun safety and concealed carry licensing they can just come by the police station and talk to the officers who will guide them to the right people.

Former Chief Escalante said that Guerra “will continue to make sure the officers continually train for every possible scenario and she will continue to work on campus safety upgrades such as a significant security camera upgrade that should be starting soon. Locally, she will need to continue to be aware of city issues that could impact any of the three NEIU campuses.” 

Interim Chief Guerra said that she plans to emphasize community outreach, mostly to NEIU Black, Indigenous, people of color community members, as a long term strategy to better policing. She indicated to The Independent that she will apply to the permanent position as Chief of NEIU Police. She added, “I love my team, I learn a lot every day from them.” 

 

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NEIU’s University Police web page lists the resources and support available for students. NEIUPD offers escort services to members of the community to the parking lots or streets adjacent to NEIU. If you are interested in the service call (773)-4424100 half an hour ahead of your departure time to schedule a police escort.