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by Peter Moskos

April 14, 2016

Chicago Police Report

It's kind of hilarious that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is trying to present his cover-up-and-dictate style of management as concern for police misconduct. But leaving that aside, a task-force he appointed has released its report.

Some of what it says needs to be said: "From 2011-2015, 40% of complaints filed were not investigated by IPRA." And: "These events and others mark a long, sad history of death, false imprisonment, physical and verbal abuse and general discontent about police actions in neighborhoods of color."

And let's not forget the false (and consistently false) police reports and (mayoral?) cover-up related to the killing of Laquan McDonald:
Not until thirteen months later -- after a pitched legal battle doggedly pursued by local investigative journalists resulted in the court-ordered release of the dash-cam video of the shooting -- did the public learn the truth: McDonald made no movements toward any officers at the time Van Dyke fired the first shot, and McDonald certainly did not lunge or otherwise make any threatening movements. The truth is that at the time Van Dyke fired the first of 16 shots, Laquan McDonald posed no immediate threat to anyone.
They really should have added that McDonald didn't pose any threat when the last shots were fired.

There are the ignored red flags:
The enduring issue of CPD officers acquiring a large number of Complaint Registers (“CRs”) remains a problem that must be addressed immediately. From 2007-2015, over 1,500 CPD officers acquired 10 or more CRs, 65 of whom accumulated 30 or more CRs. It is important to note that these numbers do not reflect the entire disciplinary history (e.g., pre-2007) of these officers.
The inability to act on red flags:
Sadly, CPD collects a significant amount of data that it could readily use to address these very troubling trends. Unfortunately, there is no systemic approach to addressing these issues, data collection is siloed and individual stakeholders do virtually nothing with the data they possess.
And the perennial problem with "community policing":
Historically, CPD has relied on the Community Alternative Policing Strategy (“CAPS”) to fulfill its community-policing function. The CAPS brand is significantly damaged after years of neglect. Ultimately, community policing cannot be relegated to a small, underfunded program; it must be treated as a core philosophy infused
But here's where ideology begins to trump common sense. It's claptrap to advocate for "community policing" without defining community policing or offering any evidence to its effectiveness. Yes, police right now need better relations with the non-criminal public in minority neighborhoods. But the main job of police, lest we forget, is to deal with the criminal public.

And then there's the absurdity -- the dangerous and even racist absurdity -- of promoting racial balance in police activity and use of force.
Police Officers Shoot African-Americans At Alarming Rates: Of the 404 shootings between 2008-2015:

• 74% or 299 African Americans were hit or killed by police officers, as compared with
• 14% or 55 Hispanics;
• 8% or 33 Whites; and
• 0.25% Asians.

For perspective, citywide, Chicago is almost evenly split by race among whites (31.7%), blacks (32.9%) and Hispanics (28.9%).
Really? That's your perspective?

The idea that police should stop, arrest, and even shoot and Tase people in proportion to population demographics is nutty. For real perspective, consider that of 3,021 Chicagoans shot last year, just 25 were shot by police. 79 percent of murder victims were black; 4 percent were white. For known assailants (which is known just a shamefully low 26 percent of the time) the figures are comparable.

With this perspective, the use-of-force stats seem quite reasonable. To say this is not to deny a historically troubling legacy or even current problems. But if the benchmark for success in policing is racial parity in use of force, then Chicago and Chicagoans are in for more bloody years.

Chicago is 5.5 percent Asian. As a benchmark of success, will we not rest till more than 5 percent of those shot by police are Asian?

Overall, use of lethal force by the Chicago Police Department is on par with the national average (0.33 per 100,000 for the CPD, compared with 0.31 for the nation). Chicago is below LA, Houston, Atlanta, San Francisco, and most cities. The Chicago Police Department may have 99 problems, but an excessive use of lethal force and a racial disparity in that use of force doesn't seem to be one of them.

Still, there is a room for improvement. The NYPD kills people at an outlyingly-low rate of 0.08. Maybe, instead of suing police departments into institutional paralysis, folks could determine what the NYPD is doing right and advocate better -- rather than less - policing based on best practices. (But who on the Left wants to talk about what the NYPD is doing right?)

But I'll finish on a positive note:
The findings and recommendations in this report are not meant to disregard or undervalue the efforts of the many dedicated CPD officers who show up to work every day to serve and protect the community. The challenge is creating a partnership between the police and the community that is premised upon respect and recognizes that our collective fates are very much intertwined.


IrishPirate said...

Let's play "Where's Chip or Chad" in this photo gallery of Chicago murder victims from 2015.


I can't find it now, but there's a list of Chicago murder victims in 100 person increments and on some pages there are NO white victims.

Get that. 100 murder victims listed chronologically and no white victims.

Some white neighborhoods in Chicago can go four or five years without a homicide.

Cops aren't responsible for the near 400 years of blacks being on the ass end of the American Experience and the resulting dysfunction and crime.

adjective: criminogenic

(of a system, situation, or place) causing or likely to cause criminal behavior.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Unknown said...

"Maybe, instead of suing police departments into institutional paralysis, folks could learn from the NYPD and copy best practices."

False dichotomy. When PDs don't voluntarily choose to learn from the NYPD and other purveyors of best practices, and when they continue to inflict not-best/ (in fact unconstitutional) practices on the people they police, what should be done? Why not sue them to force them to adopt the best practices (really, minimal practices) they've resisted?

Btw, opening that report with the multiple patently false reports about the McDonald shooting filed by the officers involved sure gets your attention. Maybe it's just one part of the city; but it's hard not to conclude from those reports alone, followed by 13 months of stonewalling, that it's a dysfunctional agency.

Moskos said...


Yeah, what I meant to say (I may edit the text) is that instead of suing the department and creating institutional paralysis, outside agents could advocate for change based on best practices. I agree there's an internal problem, too, in not adopting best practices. But outside pressure isn't productive, either.

I mean, this report could have been a great place to bring up best practices. Instead it brings up the city's demographics as a bell-weather. So was the recent Presidential Commission on crime. Right now police critics are not willing to say, "Wow, the NYPD is a model agency in terms of limited use of lethal force." But ideology is trumping practical improvements. And nothing gets better as a result.

Too many people -- especially for those who really are anti-police -- are trying to limit police rather than improve police. I find that troubling.

john mosby said...

Prof, what is the NYPD lethal-force difference? Is it something internal to the PD, such as training, policies, de-facto traditions, etc? Or is it something external to the PD, such as cultural difference in the criminal element when compared to other cities? Or even just the higher proportion of middle-class, law-abiding people within the city limits when compared to other cities? I'm assuming the police kill rate is out of 100,000 general public, not out of 100,000 criminal encounters, so if there are proportionally fewer suspects in the general public to start with, there will be proportionally fewer dead suspects over time.

Or is it a combination of all these factors?


Unknown said...

Yeah I'm not going to defend the emphasis on raw demographic disparities. (Though the differential hit rates -- contraband found twice as often on whites as blacks/hispanics -- is something; lots of PDs that have been investigated don't show those disparities.)

Should also caveat: I haven't read the whole report, just the exec summary

I wish these pattern or practice suits & class actions weren't interpreted as "Chicago cops are bad". The point is to hold *management* accountable -- to go beyond the sacrifice of individual officers in individual prosecutions and discipline proceedings, and say, hey, the top brass has been derelict in training, providing oversight and feedback, equipment; in providing idiotic performance incentives that encourage garbage stops; etc. The whole point should be to say "CPD management is failing" (something CPD officers themselves say), not that CPD officers are awful people. It's the second message that leads to paralysis and slumping morale.

Adam said...

I think there are good reasons to doubt whether those "differential hit rates" are attributable primarily to racial bias on the part of cops. See comments from campbell and me on this post. And thanks, Peter, for again making the point about racial disparity in police shootings that shouldn't have to be made.

EA5 said...

I get the argument that use of force rates won't necessarily track with demographics, but it also seems wrong to say that they should track with murder rates. Though murders are the most serious and high profile crime, as well as being most easy to verify since there's always an obvious victim while things like assaults can be more subjective, they are definitely outlier criminal events and its probably safe to say that most use of force incidents don't involve murder investigations. It'd be interesting to see how use of force tracks with other crimes like domestic violence, assaults, etc, even knowing that there might be racial disparities to how those things are logged. The report does makes it clear that it isn't doing complex quantitative analysis since its a more qualitative study and its just using broad statistical trends to help contextualize the findings from focus groups and meetings. It would be interesting to see a real quantitative analysis of the use of force incidents and stops though. Drilling into details of the stops themselves could also help identify the more egregious and unjustified uses of force and see if there's a racial disparity to those since its really not about how often force gets used but how often its used improperly. I thought the fact that African Americans and Hispanic people were twice as likely to report being "pushed around" by police as white people to be interesting and the stat that 70% of young black men reported being stopped in the last 12 months is pretty galling.

Adam said...

Interesting looking study: Stops and Stares: Street Stops, Surveillance, and Race in the New Policing

I'll wait for the Moskos report on it.

Dustin Lafe said...

It is absolutely pathetic that a report of this magnitude contains misleading demographic statistics that can only get in the way of progress.It cannot be overstated how damaging putting these kinds of misleading numbers in the official findings of task force will be--from silly media reports to confused protesting. Our groupish, bias minds simply suck at getting to the root of the thorny racial and socioeconomic issues that every PD and community has to tackle--some better than others.

This taskforce just accomplished more harm than good, because it points folks in the wrong direction and towards bad solutions.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Chicago can institute the heavy 'NYPD' triggers to reduce suspects (successfully) shot.

Andy D said...

While I'm no expert on NYPD practices, a few things jump out to me: first it seems that New York is enjoying that fact that there was a largely cultural change in the city when crime numbers declined years ago (and have continued declining) and in chicago that has not happened. In other words they got a handle on crime to an extent that Chicago never has. When violent crime goes down so much, that put cops in a better position to keep a lid on, which just might mean they have to shoot less people. Is that because NYPD uses "best practices?" Maybe. I am curious what they are--after all, Chicago (and Baltimore) have imported CompStat etc wholesale from NY. Maybe they implement them poorly?

Also, Chicago still has political corruption that makes the Third World seem like an example of good ethics. One of the biggest bitches I see from CPD cops has to do with "merit promotions" of people with political connections who are otherwise unable to pass promotional tests. Those same cops seem to complain that CPD is very top-heavy with cops who don't do cops stuff. This might mean that while Chicago and NY are close to equal in cop-per-capita (http://www.governing.com/gov-data/safety-justice/police-officers-per-capita-rates-employment-for-city-departments.html) the cops there aren't doing cop things. Maybe The DAs in New York prosecute people better? That seems to be a big problem in Chicago.

It strikes me that more than anything Chicago is just so out of control that the cops feel embattled and so policing is much uglier.

Moskos said...

John, I don't know. Certainly less violence and fewer violent criminals mean police will shoot fewer people. That's part of it. But it's more than that.

Even if one looks at homicides, which I've tried to do, NYC is still low.

But also keep in mind that Chicago isn't that bad, in terms of police shootings. At the national average. But yeah, Chicago does seem to have other issues.

Moskos said...

David, stops are a tactic in high-violence (ie: black) neighborhoods. No doubt about that. So of course the hit rate is less because if you get stopped in lower-crime neighborhood, you really deserve it.

So the question about stops, it's always the question (actually 2 questions): 1) are they legal and 2) does it deter crime. The hit rate in itself doesn't mean cops are racist. It does mean the police department is practicing different tactics in different neighborhoods. This isn't necessarily bad or racist. But it could be. It could also be an effective method of violence prevention. We don't know.

Moskos said...

EA5, I agree about looking at other crimes. But they correlate well with homicide.

But again (as per my previous comment) police do (and should) police differently in different neighborhoods. I don't have a problem with that, by itself. But of course I do if those differences are based on race (and not crime), unproductive, and piss too many non-criminals off.

aNanyMouse said...

What if certain hoods have folks who openly roll joints on street corners, while other hoods have folks who are together enough to hide their rolling of joints? Wouldn't smart brass have their cops (seeking easy busts) gravitate to the former, over the latter, hoods, or to the juiciest parts thereof?

My guess is that the former hoods are likely to be poorer hoods, and black hoods are much more likely to be poor that are white hoods. Wealthier folk are likely to be able to afford to move out of hoods where mental cases openly roll joints on street corners.

aNanyMouse said...

Correcting a typo: "... much more likely to be poor thaN are white hoods."

Moskos said...

What you've just described in institutional racism. Poor people are forced to do more of their "private" activities in public. They don't have their own rooms and back yards and roof terraces.

Unless you beat your partner, if you stay in your home cops aren't going to come across you. Same activity, different societal effects (doing illegal activities is public is worse than doing them in private) and different responses from police and the criminal justice system. It ends up being racism without racists. Cops don't go out trying to bust black people for doing drugs. But that is the end result. It's how the war on drugs can be racist, even when the individual actors are not.

And the mentally ill people getting pushed to poor neighborhoods is whole other problem. There's lots of blame to go around. I just want people to stop blaming cops for all of society's issues.

Andy D said...

Peter you just managed two things in that comment: First, you explained "Institutional Racism" in a way that makes perfect sense and which demonstrates why cops of all races contribute to these unequal statistics.

Second, you just helped me understand why despite understanding the arguments of advocates against "Institutional Racism" I HATE the term. When cops and pro-cop people hear the term they immediately feel like they are being called "Racist." They get defensive and it hurts the cause of those who are seeking reforms.

I guess it is why I prefer calling it (at least in contexts like this) the "Criminalization of Poverty" because at least in my experience poor people of every race are caught up in the criminal justice machine much more than wealthy or middle-class people regardless of race.

The War on Drugs, License suspension for failure to pay fines or for failure to pay child support, warrants for failure to pay traffic fines, etc have a terrible impact on the poor and keep them both poor and incarcerated. In general less laws = more fair.

Moskos said...

Happy to help.

Yes, in practice, institutional racism is almost always linked to poverty. Race does matter, but there are poor whites being fucked by the system, too. It's about outcomes versus intentions.

[Also, this "class not race" concept is both why many people vote for Trump and also the Marxist way Bernie Sanders talks about race. And for good reason neither goes over well among many black people.]

For what it's worth, I too dislike the term institutional racism because A) too many people don't understand what the term means, and B) the term is thrown around too much and somewhat haphazardly. Can't find real racists? Just say the racism is "institutional"! (Disparity does not automatically mean racism). The purpose of shorthand phrases is to *help* communication, not shut it off.

And in practice, take a place like Baltimore, there's something patently absurd about calling the police department racist when you have black police officers policing black people in a majority-black city that has a black power-structure.

Might the very concept of "policing," as an institution, be racist? Well, we can debate that and have interesting and heady discussions on the topic. We can debate the legacy of racism all day without making anything better. And our conclusion won't help day-to-day police officers one bit. And we certainly can't and shouldn't wait till the end of racism before we put our nose to grindstone and make things better. Otherwise we'll be waiting a very long time.

Policy debate tends to shut down when "racism" is thrown about because it's hard to talk about policy if you're position is called racist. Say something is "racist" and people's gut reaction is to disengage and say, "I'm not racist." In common use, racism does imply individual agency. And people do have a right to object to being labeled as racist when they, on an individual level, are not.

Point out *why* the system is unfair. Point out *how* the system discriminates. People don't like unfair discrimination. And even if, as the progressive left really wants, we all could hold hands and acknowledge "entitlement" and racism (real and imagined)... so effing what? We all sing Kumbaya? At some point we get back to talking about good policy, which is what we should have been doing all along.

But of course all this is ignoring that sometimes there really are malicious and/or racist intentions.... But that's something else.

john mosby said...

"Mentally ill people pushed to poor neighborhoods?" IMAE (in my anecdotal experience), they're fleeing the poor neighborhoods and occupying downtown and higher-income neighborhoods. They know that poor people won't put up with their nonsense, and they might actually get killed if they do some of the more flagrant behavior (shouting, flailing about). On the other hand, if they go where the money is, they can leverage upper-middle-class guilt into handouts and a police hands-off policy.

What they really need is an old-fashioned cartoon capitalist in striped trousers beating them with a brolly: "get a job and stop obstructing the public way, you layabout!!"


Moskos said...

I think homeless beggars do go to where the money and comparative safety is. But the bulk of mentally ill, those that are semi-functional, the ones you don't see on the street going crazy, certainly don't live in those rich neighborhoods.