Policing the Police

The DoJ released the results of their survey into the Chicago Police Department and the results show some startling areas of opportunity. 

“CPD does not investigate or review these force incidents to determine whether its responses to these events were appropriate or lawful, or whether force could have been avoided. The City is currently taking steps to improve its response to persons in mental health or behavioral crisis, in part in response to the tragic shootings deaths of Quintonio LeGrier and Bettie Jones.”

Quite an oversight.

“The City received over 30,000 complaints of police misconduct during the five years preceding our investigation, but fewer than 2% were sustained, resulting in no discipline in 98% of these complaints. This is a low sustained rate.”

2 out of every 100 complaints sustained does seem rather low.

“The City does not investigate the majority of cases it is required by law to investigate.”

That could have something to do with it.

“Those cases that are investigated suffer from serious investigative flaws that obstruct objective fact finding. Civilian and officer witnesses, and even the accused officers, are frequently not interviewed during an investigation. The potential for inappropriate coordination of testimony, risk of collusion, and witness coaching during interviews is built into the system, occurs routinely, and is not considered by investigators in evaluating the case. The questioning of officers is often cursory and aimed at eliciting favorable statements justifying the officer’s actions rather than seeking truth. Questioning is often marked by a failure to challenge inconsistencies and illogical officer explanations, as well as leading questions favorable to the officer.”


“In the rare instances when complaints of misconduct are sustained, we found that discipline is haphazard and unpredictable, and is meted out in a way that does little to deter misconduct. Officers are often disciplined for conduct far less serious than the conduct that prompted the investigation, and in many cases, a complaint may be sustained, but the officer is not disciplined at all.”

Ok, well punishment is after the fact. Preventative medicine is the best medicine.

“Pre-service Academy training relies on outmoded teaching methods and materials, and does not equip recruits with the skills, knowledge, and confidence necessary to serve Chicago communities. For example, we observed an Academy training on deadly force—an important topic, given our findings regarding CPD’s use of force—that consisted of a video made decades ago, which was inconsistent with both current law and CPD’s own policies.”


“The impact of this poor training was apparent when we interviewed recruits who recently graduated from the Academy: only one in six recruits we spoke with came close to properly articulating the legal standard for use of force.”

Hard to follow rules you don’t understand.

“CPD’s pattern or practice of unreasonable force and systemic deficiencies fall heaviest on the predominantly black and Latino neighborhoods on the South and West Sides of Chicago, which are also experiencing higher crime. Raw statistics show that CPD uses force almost ten times more often against blacks than against whites”

Unfortunately not surprising.

“In some instances, we were told, CPD will attempt to glean information about gang activity or other crime by arresting or detaining individuals, and refusing to release the individual until he provides that information. In other instances, CPD will take a young person to a rival gang neighborhood, and either leave the person there, or display the youth to rival members, immediately putting the life of that young person in jeopardy"

Wow. Those are just some “highlights” from the first 20 pages of a 161 page document, the first 153 are necessary just to discuss the various concerns. If you can manage to stick with it, it never ceases horrify.

“One black resident told us that when it comes to CPD, there is “no treating you as a human being.” Consistent with these reports, our investigation found that there was a recurring portrayal by some CPD officers of the residents of challenged neighborhoods—who are mostly black—as animals or subhuman. One CPD member told us that the officers in his district come to work every day “like it’s a safari.” This theme has a long history in Chicago. A photo from the early 2000s that surfaced years later shows white CPD officers Jerome Finnegan and Timothy McDermott squatting over a black man posed as a dead deer with antlers as the officers hold their rifles.”

Law enforcement is one of the most challenging public services and one of the most necessary. These people put some of the most fast paced potentially lethal situations imaginable. A structure needs to be in place which supports their success. Looking through this report, the good news is their shouldn’t be any question as to why Chicago’s having so many issues with crime.