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Englewood community joins police in 'Operation Cleanup' effort, as district commander expresses hope about possibilities

Englewood District police commander expresses hope about possibilities for community cooperation
Englewood District police commander expresses hope about possibilities for community cooperation 02:12

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The Englewood community is in prayer after two of its police officers were shot just days apart recently.

Chicago Police Englewood (7th) District Cmdr. Rodney Hill talked with CBS 2's Steven Graves Friday about officer morale and his outlook on the summer season.

A neighborhood cleanup effort in Englewood on Friday began with a prayer. In the greater Englewood community - prayers to heal hurt, but also foster hope.

"I had two officers shot, and both survived. They're doing well," Cmdr. Hill said, "and that's a blessing."

At the cleanup effort, Cmdr. Hill took the mic at 69th and Sangamon streets. He talked publicly for the first time near where his officer, Erik Moreno, was shot last Sunday.

"It was a struggle the last couple of weeks," he said.

Days before that - someone shot Englewood District Officer Fernanda Ballesteros at 61st and Paulina streets. She recently got released from the hospital.

On Friday, fellow beat officers stood behind Cmdr. Hill. We asked about how many are holding up.

"My officers - they're holding on," Hill said. "They're strong. They're a resilient group of young officers."

Meanwhile, Marcus Simpson – a native of the West Side's Austin neighborhood – joined city workers in cleaning the Englewood community Friday. He says the shootings that wounded officers sent shockwaves through the whole city.

"If we scare the police off, it's going to be worse," Simpson said. "We don't want the people who protect and serve us to be scared for their life."

Deshaunna Pitts lives near where the crowd met Friday.

"I feel like at a point, they could be our backbone, like, I feel like - Black people, we are so scared of a relationship with the police," she said. "Everyone coming together and pitching in and doing their part – I feel like it really will help."

Cmdr. Hill added: "As a whole, I'm happy with the relationships that I have with my community partners. We're working together."

The key, Englewood leaders say, to reducing violence heading into summertime - a season some might look at as grim.

"I don't think it's grim. I don't," Hill said. "I think we have to remain optimistic about the possibilities of being better as a city and community."

And the prayers for peace will continue.

The event Friday was part of an initiative called "Operation Clean," which goes to different neighborhoods every Friday. Chicago Police chose Englewood because of the recent violence.

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