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January 18 2017

About that Much-Ballyhooed DOJ Report on the Chicago PD . . .

Charlotte Hays

The Department of Justice's report on the behavior of the Chicago Police Department has received favorable media coverage. No wonder, it faults the alleged behavior of the police rather than lawbreakers.

But the indespensable Heather Mac Donald points out something the press missed: there is no reliable statistical evidence to support the findings of the report.

[T]he report found the Chicago police guilty of a “pattern or practice” of unconstitutional force. But it turns out that the Justice Department has no standard for what constitutes a “pattern or practice” (the phrase comes from a 1994 federal statute) of unconstitutional police conduct. “Statistical evidence is not required” for a “pattern or practice” finding, the DOJ lawyers announce, citing unrelated court precedent. Nor is there “a specific number of incidents” required to constitute a “pattern or practice,” they proclaim.

The report never gives data on allegedly unconstitutional incidents of police misbehavior. It doesn't explain why actions described as unconstitutional were found to be unconstitutional. The report relies on words such as “several,” “often,” or “many” instead of any meaningful category. Mac Donald notes:

The report does disclose that the DOJ attorneys reviewed 425 incidents of less-than-lethal force between January 2011 and April 2016. But what proportion of total force incidents those 425 events represent or how many of those 425 incidents the federal lawyers found unconstitutional isn’t revealed. As to how many stops and arrests were made over that same time period that didn’t involve the use of force, the reader can only guess.

The Chicago Police Department used to be held up as a model for police departments in other jurisdictions. Given the dearth of meaningful statistics, it is fair to wonder if the anti-police bias of the Obama Justice Department played a bigger role in the report's "findings" than interviews and data sifting.

Were all those academics [who praised the Chicago PD] wrong? If the Chicago PD was so awash in civil rights violations, why didn’t these liberal professors notice? Or did the Justice Department start out with a foreordained conclusion regarding the racist CPD and produce a report to confirm it? DOJ’s investigation began in December 2015, after the release of a video showing the unjustified police shooting of Laquan McDonald in October 2014. By then, the Black Lives Matter movement was in full gear nationally; anti-cop riots had torn apart Ferguson and Baltimore and would continue to spread mayhem over the next year. The chance that under such circumstances, DOJ wouldn’t continue its own pattern of denouncing police departments for racism based on flimsy evidence was slight. The attorneys didn’t even bother to interview [Police Superintendent at the time Garry] Carthy for their report.

The report ignored the officers who risk their lives trying to protect citizens. It ignored the "profound disorder" in neighborhoods run by gangs. The DOJ investigators were horrified by a suggestion at a Compstat crime-analysis meeting that increased car stops might reduce the number of drive-by shootings. 

Mac Donald concludes:

Chicago is the country’s most shocking example of what I have called the Ferguson effect: the phenomenon of police officers in high-crime areas backing off of proactive policing, resulting in the emboldening of criminals. With investigatory stops down 82 percent through most of 2016 compared with 2015, there were over 3,400 shootings in Chicago last year. One person was shot every two hours on average. The police shot just over 25 people, or 0.6 percent of all total shootings. The DOJ report is silent about that ratio. The biggest challenge facing the CPD today is how to encourage officers to reengage with criminal suspects. The DOJ report is silent about that matter as well.

Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel has said that he intends to sign a consent decree putting the CPD under federal management; Emanuel undoubtedly calculates that aligning himself with the expiring Obama Justice Department serves his future political career. If current CPD superintendent Eddie Johnson isn’t willing to oppose this costly and unnecessary burden, the best hope for the thousands of law-abiding residents of Chicago’s high-crime areas is a change in both tone and policy from the White House.

The incoming Trump Justice Department has an opportunity to support the police and make life safer in inner city neighborhoods. Of course, progressives, supposed friends to the poor, will pull every stunt in the book to portray such efforts as racist.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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