Violence in Chicago raises serious questions about police reform plan
Editor Lifson covered the incredible weekend violence in Chicago earlier. Unfortunately, Lifson's report on the numbers – 4 dead, 40 wounded – was slightly premature.
The final tally from the weekend includes 10 dead Chicagoans and 53 wounded. Area hospitals were overwhelmed with casualties. Somehow, "war zone" doesn't quite describe the carnage.
The epidemic of violence raises serious questions about the court-ordered police reform plan that was hashed out at the state and local levels by politicians and community groups – including the ACLU and Black Lives Matter.
With those two groups involved, you can imagine the nightmare that awaits both residents and police officers. The plan virtually disarms police, allowing them to make fewer arrests and let a lot of crime slide.
A coalition of civil rights organizations suing the city, including Black Lives Matter Chicago, the Chicago Urban League and the NAACP, in May released their own 10-point plan that called for a number of reforms.
Among other things, the plan called for overhauling the police department's use of force policy and additional officer training in de-escalation strategies. The group also asked to remove officers from public schools and to reserve police intervention for "real and immediate" threats.
And, when it comes to officers' use of Tasers, the group called for limitations such as prohibiting their use at schools and on pregnant women, children, elderly people, anyone in medical distress and those who are handcuffed or restrained.
The coalition also called for the city to step up its efforts to divert people from the formal justice system by, among other things, limiting arrests for victimless crimes.
Under the coalition's proposal, training on fair and unbiased policing would be required, and the department's hiring efforts would have to maintain diversity. The group also called for providing incentives to officers who don't use excessive force, reduce their number of arrests and treat people fairly.
There's nothing wrong with making the department more accountable and requiring more training. But what the city needs to head off the kind of carnage seen this past weekend is not less policing, but more.
Case in point: the consent decree under which the Baltimore Police Department operates. The reforms were instituted after a black man, Freddie Gray, died in the back of a police van, leading to riots in the streets. That consent decree had the unintended effect of forcing officers to look the other way when it comes to crime.
The Baltimore crime wave can be traced, almost to the very day in April 2015, that Freddie Gray, a small-time drug dealer and petty criminal, died in police custody. When Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby made the ill-considered decision to charge six officers in Gray's death, she sent a clear message to the rest of the city's police officers: concerns about crime and disorder will be subordinated to the quest for social justice.
As was the case in Los Angeles years ago, the result was entirely predictable. Officers disengaged from proactive police work, minimizing their risk of being the next cop to be seated in the defendant's chair in some Marilyn Mosby show trial. The prevailing thought among Baltimore's cops was something like this: They can make me come to work, they can make me handle my calls and take my reports, but they can't make me chase the next hoodlum with a gun I come across, because if I chase him I might catch him, and if I catch him I might have to hit him or, heaven forbid, shoot him. And if that happens and Marilyn Mosby comes to the opinion that I transgressed in any way ... well, forget it. Let the bodies fall where they may, and I'll be happy to put up the crime-scene tape and wait for the detectives and the coroner to show up.
Police in Chicago won't even be able to Taser a suspect unless they can be absolutely certain the individual won't be harmed. So police in Chicago are probably going to react the same way they did in Baltimore: indifference to all but the most serious threats.
Ordinary people may be under a greater threat of violence as a result of this deal, but for the gangs, the ACLU, and Black Lives Matter, it's a godsend. It's almost as if MS-13 were sitting at the table with Mayor Emanuel and A.G. Madigan, hashing out what they will be able to get away with.
I don't live in the city, but if I did, I would seriously consider moving out as soon as possible.