Kicking the Pigeon #17 – Epilogue

Today Stateway Gardens looks like a place where a battle was fought. The lone surviving building—3651-53 South Federal—rises at the center of thirty-three acres of barren, rutted land like a ruin in a vanquished city. Last October, as U.S. Cellular Field (across the expressway and a world away ) was being prepared for a World Series game that night, a friend and I walked across the development deep in conversation. A large hawk swooped past at eye-level, animating the air with its wings, and alighted on a nearby lamp post. Then, with sovereign disregard for us, it surveyed the desolate terrain in search of prey.

Seen from the vantage point of the CHA and developers, a perspective far removed from the ground, Stateway is now a blank slate, a place without a history, a canvas on which the “new community” of Park Boulevard will be created. There are signs of what is to come. The first building in the new development—an 80-unit structure called Pershing Court—has been built off site at 39th and State. At 35th and Federal, there is a marketing office. And the Water Department is laying a new sewer system.

Fifty of the 230 apartments in 3651-53 South Federal are occupied. Diane Bond is among those who remain. They have recently been told by the CHA and the developers that the building will be closed in the fall of this year.

At a ground-breaking ceremony last December, developer Allison Davis declared that Park Boulevard would replace the Stateway high-rises—“hopeless reservoirs of the poor”—with a “symphony of diversity.”

* * * *

In 2004, once land clearance in high-rise CHA developments had been largely completed, the Public Housing South section of the CPD was disbanded and its officers redeployed. Several members of the skullcap crew—Stegmiller, Savickas, and Utreras—were reassigned to the Second District, which includes Stateway, and remain in the area.

Police presence at Stateway has been uneven. For a period, during the fall of 2004 and winter of 2005, there was a police car parked around-the-clock in close proximity to 3651-53 South Federal. The officers did not get out of the car, they did not walk the building, but at least they performed a scarecrow function. By spring, the police had pulled out, and the drug dealers had returned.

Larry Washington, a long-time Stateway resident, recently had an exchange with a police sergeant about the situation. “Why post officers here?” said the sergeant. “The building’s going to be torn down soon anyway.”

This fall the CPD installed another kind of scarecrow directly across from the building: a surveillance camera of the sort that has been appearing in inner city neighborhoods throughout Chicago. Intended to be highly visible, these so-called camera “pods” are mounted atop tall poles and housed in boxes with the CPD logo on the side and a blinking blue light. They are the most visible part of the CPD’s high-tech approach—arising out of the confluence of “homeland security” and local law enforcement—to crime-fighting. A pilot program using the pods in the Harrison District on the West Side is credited with dramatically shutting down the drug trade. Ultimately, the plan is to install some 2,000 such cameras across the city. The CHA has purchased twenty-four surveillance pods from the CPD at a cost of $1.1 million for placement at public housing developments. Presumably, the pilot project in the Harrison District had officers at the other end of the cameras, closely monitoring criminal activity on the street. It is not clear that this is true of the pods installed more recently, such as the one at Stateway. In any case, they do not seem to be having much effect. The word on the street is that they function not as deterrents but as billboards declaring “Drugs Sold Here.”

* * * *

Bond v. Utreras has progressed slowly. On June 6, 2005, Judge Lefkow granted plaintiff’s motion to file the amended complaint. Under federal rules, the defendants have twenty days to respond. Seven months have now elapsed. Neither the City nor the individual defendants have responded to the amended complaint.

In the course of the discovery process, a host of issues have arisen between the parties. Ms. Bond’s attorneys charge that the City lawyers have pursued a litigation strategy designed to frustrate the possibility of meaningful judicial or public scrutiny of CPD practices. The issues that have arisen in the context of discovery are now before Magistrate Judge Arlander Keys. He has indicated he will rule on them within the next few weeks.

On the eve of his deposition by City attorneys, scheduled for September 8, Willie Murphy, Bond’s son, was arrested at Stateway with another resident, Eric Finley. The two men gave the following account of what happened: They had gone to Finley’s brother’s apartment with a friend to watch DVD’s. Soon after they entered the apartment, a team of officers, including Utreras and Savickas, kicked in the front door and immediately began to beat them. They then handcuffed the three men.

“Who’s got a belt?” one of them asked. “Give me the thickest belt you’ve got.” He assessed their belts but did not find one to his liking.

Another officer disconnected a heavy orange extension cord from the dryer. He gave the cord to an African-American officer named Lee who doubled it up to form a whip.

“You’re gonna see how Kunte Kinte felt,” said Lee, referring to a character in Roots, Alex Haley’s saga about slavery.

He then repeatedly whipped each of the handcuffed men in turn, as he asked them broad questions. (“What do you know?” “I don’t know nothing.” “You know something.”) While Lee was whipping the three men, the other officers searched the apartment. Murphy and Finley were arrested on drug charges.

The sight of police officers floods Bond with panic. She has not removed the handwritten note warning those who approach her door not to knock unless it is “for a good cause (not stupid).” On the inside of the door she has taped several pictures of Jesus, in order, she told me, “to keep away all bad things.”

A recent encounter left her deeply shaken. In an emergency motion filed by her attorneys on February 4, she reported that on January 31 she was stopped on the Stateway grounds by a police officer who accused her of having drugs on her and searched her. When the officer told her name to a second officer, he replied, “Oh, Diane Bond—from ‘Kicking the Pigeon.’” The second officer ordered her to get into his police car and interrogated her. “You know too much,” he told her. “I could kill you right now.”

* * * *

The City continues to use highly moralistic language to promote the idea that the razing of the high-rises is in itself a social good. Asked on November 15, 2005 on CBS’s “Early Show” what he thinks his “most important accomplishment” is, Mayor Daley spoke first of education and then cited the “restoration of public housing.”

“We tore down the high-rises,” said the Mayor, “and we’re rebuilding the souls of people.”

Soon the Stateway site will be animated by the pleasing spectacle of new housing being built. We will be invited to celebrate this as progress, as a new beginning. The regime of not-knowing will be abetted by the universal human impulse to put it all behind us. Yet the questions raised by the Bond case will remain. If it is established that during these years of “transformation” a group of police officers inflicted racial and gender violence in public housing communities, with complete impunity, what will that say about the policies and practices of the CPD? What will it say about the character of the CHA’s Plan for Transformation? What will it say, as Mayor Daley might put it, about the soul of the city?

Kicking the Pigeon #16: The Regime of Not-Knowing

In view of the gravity of harms to citizens, communities, and institutions that flow from police abuses, what are the impediments to instituting an effective monitoring and disciplinary system? Clearly, they are not technological. The City could, with available technology, have put an adequate system in place years ago. So what is the basis for resistance? Rogue officers have obvious reasons to resist effective oversight, but why do their supervisors protect them?

As a matter of logic rather than direct knowledge, it seems clear that senior CPD officials are less concerned about protecting rogue officers than about protecting the institution from the consequences of what an effective early warning system would reveal. The purpose of such a system is to detect signs an officer is beginning to stray. As the Mayor’s Commission on Police Integrity put it, “small problems become big ones if left unattended.” An early warning system designed to perform this function in the future by organizing available data will necessarily disclose the consequences of not having had an effective system in the past. When the City institutes such a system, it will have to confront a number of problems, once small, that having been “left unattended,” are now “big.”

The patterns of abuse disclosed will demand action. They will make visible the extent of the suffering inflicted by rogue officers—the number of convictions based on false testimony and abusive practices, and in cases of arrests in public housing, the number of families made homeless by “One Strike” evictions. The costs for the City—politically, institutionally, monetarily—will be substantial. The courts will be flooded by legal challenges brought by those who claim to have suffered at the hands of officers identified as abusive. The recent experience of Los Angeles is instructive. As of April, 2005, it had paid out close to $70 million to settle more than 200 lawsuits arising out of the so-called Rampart Scandal involving, in the words of the City attorney who handled the claims, the abuses of “a handful of rogue officers.”

Yet the costs of the status quo, though partially hidden because spread over time, are even more staggering. The City currently pays out millions of dollars each year to settle excessive force cases (and additional millions to provide legal representation for the officer-defendants). The total cost of settlements in 2004, according to the Chicago Reporter, was more than $20 million. By settling rather than allowing cases to go to trial, the City avoids judgment, disclosure, and acknowledgement. It avoids the possibility that a judge will dictate reforms.

Apart from the settlements, it is hard to assign a dollar figure to the cost of investing so much institutional energy in not knowing about patterns of abuse. Taken together, the code of silence among officers on the ground, the OPS machinery for converting citizen complaints into findings of “not sustained,” and the institutional resistance to effective monitoring form a single, unified system—a regime of not-knowing.

This system is enabled by the ideological/narrative medium of “the war on drugs”—the official myths and social scientific folklore, the reflexive journalism and popular entertainment that shape our perceptions of abandoned communities such as Stateway Gardens.

As you read this account of the abuses Diane Bond alleges Chicago police officers committed against her—so raw, so appalling, so unacceptable—did you find yourself thinking, “But maybe she’s a drug dealer. . . maybe someone close to her, her son perhaps or her boyfriend, is a drug dealer. . . maybe her community is overrun by drug dealers”? Did you find yourself searching for reasons that could somehow explain and perhaps justify the police conduct alleged?

The impulse is understandable. Indeed, it is hard to resist, because we do not want to believe police officers would act this way. But consider the implications. Are “the series of horrendous acts” (to quote the City attorneys) alleged in the Bond case any less horrendous, if the officers had probable cause to come to her door? The defendants are not making that argument. They are flatly denying any contact whatsoever with Bond on the dates of the alleged incidents. Yet is there perhaps a sense in which we are inclined to make the argument on their behalf? Are we so conditioned to apartheid justice—to “the war on drugs” as an exception to constitutional norms akin to the exception being carved out for “the war on terror”—that we can no longer confidently recognize the heinous nature of the crimes at issue?

This summer one of the University of Chicago law students who participates in the Stateway Civil Rights Project interviewed for a job at a Chicago firm. The lawyer interviewing him asked what he had found most interesting in law school. He described his work on the Bond case. The lawyer became incredulous and hostile. He refused to accept that there was not a rational explanation for the Bond incidents.

“I know cops,” the lawyer told the student. “I know good cops, and I know bad cops. There is always a reason.”

After decades of mass incarceration and the practice of guilt by association embodied in policies such as “One Strike,” have we so lost our bearings that the mantra “gangs and drugs” suffices as an all-purpose rationale for any act a police officer commits in an abandoned neighborhood? Has the process by which those who live in such neighborhoods come to be defined as “criminals” rather than “blacks” (or “fellow citizens” or “neighbors”) advanced so far that it now blinds us to the character and antecedents of what we are allowing to be done in our names?

To be continued…

Kicking the Pigeon #15: “A Few Bad Apples”

“In a democracy, there is nothing as good as a good police officer, and nothing as bad as a bad one.” – Susan Herman

The universal defense offered by police departments charged with brutality, as by governments charged with torture, is that “there will always be a few bad apples in any barrel.” There is a measure of truth in this. It is generally agreed that the vast preponderance of abuse is committed by perhaps five percent of officers. This is not an insignificant number in a force of more than 13,000. And there is no reason to assume the five percent is evenly distributed; there may be sections of the police force, such as the public housing section, where the percentage is significantly higher. Yet the image of “a few bad apples” remains plausible. It is a way of talking about police abuse that keeps visible the large majority of officers who do not commit abuses and can be assumed to deplore such conduct. The image is, however, fatally flawed in two respects. It does not comprehend the scale of the harm a handful of violent agents, acting with impunity, can do. Nor does it convey the impact those few bad apples, if not removed, will have on the barrel.

We’re the real police.” Several Stateway residents have quoted this declaration by members of the skullcap crew. Also: “You know what we’re capable of.” Or alternatively: “You have no idea what we’re capable of.” The implication is clear: we are above the law. Residents have little reason to question that assertion, for despite numerous complaints against them, crew members have continued to prey at will on public housing communities.

Day after day, month after month, year after year, a rogue crew can do a staggering amount of damage. To individuals. To families. To communities. This is especially true in the setting of public housing where an arrest for “drug-related activity”—even if the case is dismissed or yields a verdict of “not guilty”—can result in the eviction of the entire family under HUD’s “One Strike” policy.

A rogue crew, operating with impunity, can also do profound, long-lasting damage to the legitimacy of government, alienating whole populations from civil authority and engendering the criminal and anti-social behaviors it is supposedly combating. This is a dynamic I have become familiar with during my years at Stateway.

According to the social scientific literature, children in inner city neighborhoods are drawn, in the absence of other models of constructive activity and effective agency, to the charismatic figure of the drug-dealing gangbanger. This analysis is widely accepted and largely unchallenged. It is refracted through journalistic accounts of inner city dysfunction. And it coheres tightly with a set of policy prescriptions that center on dismantling inner city neighborhoods. It is also a misleading half-truth. At any rate, in over a decade spent on the ground at Stateway, I have not observed it as a strong pattern. Yes, I have seen adolescents drift toward the drug trade, as they begin to explore the world beyond their households. The drug marketplace is a form of activity in public space in their immediate geography that carries the requisite transgressive charge for adolescent adventurers. And, yes, I have observed inner city teenagers who are every bit as caught up in media celebrations of thug life as white teenagers in suburbia or South Dakota, but I have seen little evidence that the bored men standing all day “up under the building” in every kind of weather are powerful role models.

What I have seen again and again (but not found much reflected in the social scientific literature or journalism) is the impact on these young people of being abused by the police and witnessing others being abused. A natural response to seeing your friends and neighbors beaten and humiliated—I have experienced it myself—is to think, “If this is the face of authority, then I’m going to stand with my guys.” If I feel this as a middle-aged white from outside the neighborhood, imagine what a fourteen-year-old boy trying to find his legs as a man feels. This dynamic produces outlaws not because people are ignorant of the wider world or somehow stunted in their development. It is a fundamentally healthy response: not necessarily healthy in where it leads—it can lead to some very dangerous places—but healthy in that it is animated by a sense of justice. Far more than the charisma of the drug dealer, it is, in my experience, the ugly face of civil authority that fuels the outlaw solidarity of the street.

Again, it is important to emphasize that most of the abuse is committed by a relatively small number of officers. It does not follow, however, that the competent, respectful conduct of the majority offsets the injuries inflicted by the abusive few. For one thing, we are talking here about the impact of violent crime—about the way the victim of an assault by a person with green hair thereafter responds with intense fear to green-haired people. That response is not a matter of choice. It is visceral—a reflex fired by the victim’s nerve endings—and it can be the work of a lifetime to undo its grip. Why do we imagine the dynamic is any different when the distinguishing feature of the threat is a police uniform (or the de facto uniforms of plainclothes officers)?

The violence inflicted by rogue officers has the added quality of being a betrayal of public trust: protectors reveal themselves to be predators. The impact of that betrayal is greatly compounded by the failure of the police department to discipline rogue officers. Precisely because the institution does not hold them accountable for their crimes, they come to embody the institution for their victims. Again, this is not corrected by the good police work of other officers. For the message conveyed by the institutional failure to hold abusive officers accountable is that they are indeed “the real police.”

Imagine what it would be like to live under such a cruel, arbitrary regime. To be vulnerable at any moment to having violent men invade your home, verbally and physically abuse you and your children, then deny it ever happened. To be subject to being falsely accused by them of crimes you did not commit and convicted on the basis of fabricated evidence. To live from day to day with the fear their presence—the mere sight of them—provokes. (“You know what we’re capable of.”) To know there is no meaningful avenue for redress open to you, no responsive authority to which you can appeal for relief.

The impunity of “a few bad apples” can create conditions of life on the ground in abandoned communities that resemble those in the most repressive police states.

For much of the last year, there was an exhibition at the Chicago Historical Society of photographs and postcards taken as souvenirs at lynchings. It evoked a world in which unspeakable violence committed by a relative handful was an effective tool for oppressing an entire population, because local government and the “good” people of the society acquiesced, thereby underwriting the impunity of the violent ones. The title of the exhibition was unexpected, profound, and on reflection, precise in naming the impact of such impunity on those subject to abuse. It was called Without Sanctuary.

To be continued…

Kicking the Pigeon #14: CLEAR

Having established that the City has long been aware of the inadequacies of its monitoring and disciplinary system, the critical question is whether it has acted in a timely manner to implement recommendations for reforming that system.

A budget, Hannah Rosenthal of the Chicago Foundation for Women recently remarked, is a moral compass. It orients an institution, expresses its direction, and documents its values. It reflects institutional priorities—what is important to the institution and what is not. Budget numbers may also testify to areas of neglect or reveal de facto policies of underfunding certain activities in order to limit their effectiveness.

Over the last decade, the City has invested heavily in a sustained effort to make optimal use of information technology for the purpose of crime-fighting. This effort has yielded a comprehensive strategy that includes among its elements an expanding network of surveillance cameras across the city and information-driven deployment of police personnel. The centerpiece of this strategy is a criminal justice information system known as CLEAR—Citizen Law Enforcement Analysis and Reporting.

The nerve center for the various applications that constitute CLEAR is a state-of-the-art “data warehouse.” An ever expanding network of databases, it provides access to a vast repository of information drawn from multiple sources. It enables police personnel to search for relevant information organized according to a wide range of variables. And it guides deployment decisions by providing real-time data to help identify “hot spots.”

CLEAR is the product of a partnership between the CPD and the Oracle Corporation. After some false starts in upgrading its technology in the 1990s, the CPD entered into an agreement in 2001, under which Oracle agreed to invest $20 million in developing CLEAR in exchange for the right to sell it to other law enforcement agencies. Other funding has come from the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security.

The essence of CLEAR is criminal justice data integration. As more agencies participate and more data sources are added, it continually expands its reach and effectiveness. The momentum of its growth has been impressive. In January of 2004, Mayor Daley and Governor Blagojevich announced that CLEAR would develop into a statewide criminal justice database and would embrace all criminal justice agencies in the state. In view of this expanded mission, it was renamed I-CLEAR.

The last great innovation in data-driven policing—the ComStat system developed by the New York Police Department—funnels information up the chain of command where is it processed and then disseminated. CLEAR, by contrast, is designed to provide the officer on the street, as well as the supervisors and crime analysts at headquarters, with immediate access to its ever expanding universe of data. In the fall of 2004, Mayor Daley and Superintendent Cline announced that the City would be outfitting some 1,200 squad cars with laptops that would give officers on the street wireless access to I-CLEAR. “We’ve always said that the technological advances we’ve made in this department over the years are useless if officers in the field can’t access the information quickly,” said Cline.

The CPD credits I-CLEAR with reducing crime and increasing productivity. Others credit the CPD with building the future of law enforcement. In 2004, the CPD received the Grand CIO Enterprise Value Award from CIO Magazine in a competition that included Dell, Procter & Gamble, and Pfizer. One of the judges, the chief information officer of Raytheon, said, “Enterprise value in its highest form is the opportunity for IT to transform a business, to bring a whole new world into existence. The Chicago Police Department totally changed the game.”

Superintendent Cline and his colleagues have demonstrated they fully understand the power of information technology to detect patterns of criminality. The question is: have they applied these tools with the same sense of urgency and clarity of purpose to preventing human rights abuses by the police against citizens?

During the period CLEAR has been evolving, the policies and practices of OPS have regularly been questioned. In response to public criticism, OPS staff members have repeatedly cited the lack of requisite technology as the reason they cannot harvest more information from their files.

A 1998 Human Rights Watch report titled Shielded From Justice notes that OPS does not provide public reports containing “information regarding the subject officer or complainant, such as race, age, or gender, or the district where the incident took place or where the officer involved is assigned.” OPS staff explained “that funding has not been available for computerization of its work, and that everything is done by hand, making a comprehensive public report unfeasible.”

In September, 1999, the Chicago Reporter stated that “OPS does not keep computerized records of complaints.” It quoted Callie Baird, then the office’s chief administrator:

. . . because her office is not “automated,” she is unable to analyze demographic trends in complaints, investigations and discipline. “People think that we have this [information] and we don’t want to give it out,” she said. “But we don’t have it compiled according to the way people are requesting it.”

In an investigative report on OPS broadcast on May 12, 2004, Pam Zekman of CBS 2 Chicago reported that Lori Lightfoot, then chief administrator of OPS, said “her office is in the process of implementing new technology that would allow better tracking of officers.” As Bond v. Utreras unfolds, we will no doubt learn more about this process. I only know that in the fall of 2004—at a time when the City was outfitting squad cars with state-of-the-art laptops with wireless access to its immense database—a visitor to the offices of OPS reported that investigators appeared to be working on antique 386 and 486 computers.

The “new technology” to which Lightfoot referred is presumably the personnel component of CLEAR. According to academic researchers who have evaluated CLEAR under a grant from the Department of Justice, this module will eventually include a yet-to-be-developed “Personnel Performance System” which “will be a repository for all data related to officer behavior and performance”:

It will assist management in the interpretation of information provided by the various modules comprising the Personnel Suite, thus allowing for the early identification of officers whose performance indicates potential problems as a result of recurrent citizen complaints, pursuits and traffic accidents, firearm-discharge incidents and the like. Officers so identified are provided with intervention (counseling or training) designed to improve the problematic behavior. While this is currently done on a manual basis, the Personnel Suite will widen the scope of the data employed and systematize the problem-identification process. Development of the CPD’s performance monitoring system is not the result of a consent decree; however, U. S. Department of Justice recommendations for jurisdictions so mandated will anchor Chicago’s program.

If these words were given concrete meaning, the City would indeed have an effective monitoring system. They are, however, only words. Eight years after the Mayor’s Commission on Police Integrity recommended the CPD institute a “fully computerized,” “sophisticated and thorough” early warning system, the “Personnel Performance System,” according to the evaluators, “remains in the conceptual stage.”

The City will no doubt argue that it has acted on the recommendation in exemplary fashion by developing a state-of-the-art information technology strategy. It will say that the monitoring function has been an integral part of CLEAR from the start, that CLEAR is being rolled out in a systematic way, and that the monitoring component is contingent on other parts of the system being built first. It will say that these things take time.

Such an argument begs fundamental questions. Should systemic patterns of human rights abuse by the police be allowed to continue unchecked for years or even decades, while the CPD develops the ideal system for addressing them? Is the promise of such a system at some point in the receding future an adequate response, when the City’s failure to use existing resources to address these patterns now exposes citizens to harms that could be avoided? Does the fact that CLEAR’s early warning system remains “in the conceptual stage” reflect a rational sequencing of tasks or profoundly skewed priorities?

To be continued…

Kicking the Pigeon #13: “An excellent blueprint for change”

We’ll use all our resources to go after police officers who engage in misconduct. They are giving a black eye to the majority, the ninety percent of the cops that go out there everyday and put their life on the line to keep this city safe.

–Superintendent Philip Cline, Chicago Police Department

OPS has amassed a wealth of information—thousands of complaints of excessive force each year—that could provide the basis for a highly effective early warning system. The fact that OPS investigators do not “sustain” most of them does not make these complaints any less useful for this purpose. Patterns of police abuse are not random. It is generally agreed that repeat offenders, who constitute a small percentage of the total police force, commit most of the abuses. The mass of complaints, if they were effectively harvested, would thus yield clear patterns.

No one argues against the proposition that the Chicago Police Department should have an effective early warning system. The issue of police accountability has a long history in Chicago. When challenged, the City says it has an adequate early warning system and is steadily improving it.

How might such assertions be assessed? There are several relevant lines of inquiry. Among them: Is the City aware of the inadequacies of its system? Has it acknowledged the validity of recommendations that it address those inadequacies by instituting an effective early warning system?

The history is instructive. Apart from the recommendations of national commissions and associations that speak to the issue in general terms, there is substantial evidence the City has long known its system is inadequate.

In 1994, the CPD purchased the BrainMaker program from California Scientific Software. Described by the company as “neural network software,” BrainMaker was intended to identify officers needing additional supervision, training, or counseling. The software was used to analyze the behavior patterns of 200 officers who had been terminated for disciplinary reasons. The patterns that emerged from this analysis were then used to identify “at risk” officers currently serving in the police force. The initial application of BrainMaker identified 91 “at risk” officers, more than half of whom were not enrolled in counseling. “We’re very pleased with the outcome,” said Deputy Superintendent Raymond Risely at the time. “We consider it much more efficient and capable of identifying at-risk personnel than command officers might be able to do. The old method just can’t compete with it.” Because of the size of the police force, he added, it’s “pretty much impossible for all at-risk individuals to be identified” by supervisors. Deputy Commissioner Risely characterized BrainMaker as a complement to existing counseling programs. The program, he emphasized, was not disciplinary. “It’s an opportunity for an officer who is moving in the wrong direction to rehabilitate himself. If an officer refuses to participate, nothing happens to him.” BrainMaker was, however, intensely resisted by the Fraternal Order of Police, the police union. And in 1996 the CPD abandoned its plans to use the program. It appears that data generated by BrainMaker was deleted, although it would have provided information that could have been used to prevent abuses by officers identified as “at risk.”

In 2001, the Justice Coalition of Greater Chicago, a coalition of community groups, issued a study that concluded that the CPD lacked adequate early warning, disciplinary, and monitoring systems. The Police Board stated in response that it “recognizes the importance of an effective early warning system to identify and remedy potential disciplinary problems.” The Board recommended that the CPD “consider additional methods of developing an effective and automated early warning system.”

Perhaps the strongest evidence the City is aware it lacks an adequate early warning system is provided by the report of the Mayor’s Commission on Police Integrity. In 1997, in the wake of a police scandal involving seven officers in the Austin District and three officers in the Gresham District who had been robbing drug dealers, Mayor Daley appointed the commission and charged it with the mission of investigating the underlying causes of the scandal and making recommendations for reform. Led by former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb, it included Sharon Gist Gilliam, former budget director for the City and current chair of the Chicago Housing Authority board; Fred Rice, former superintendent of police; and Anita Alvarez, director of the Public Integrity Unit of the Cook County States Attorney’s Office. It was staffed by the Office of International Criminal Justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

In November of 1997, the Commission presented its report to Mayor Daley. It recommended the CPD institute a “fully computerized” early warning system in order to identify officers and groups of officers who engaged in misconduct. The Commission stated:

Virtually every major city police department in the country has recognized the need for a mechanism which alerts command personnel that an officer may be involved in a pattern of misconduct. The premise is simple: small problems become big ones if left unattended.

The “need for a sophisticated and thorough early warning system,” the Commission noted, was illustrated by the CPD’s failure to detect patterns of misconduct by the Austin and Gresham officers whose crimes had precipitated the scandal. The seven Austin officers had a total of 93 complaints against them during their careers, only two of which had been sustained. The three Gresham officers had a total of 40 complaints during their careers, only three of which had been sustained. Had the CPD had an effective early warning system, the Commission concluded, it could have prevented some of the crimes committed by these officers.

Upon receiving the Commission’s report, Mayor Daley characterized its recommendations as “an excellent blueprint for change.”

To be continued…