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Thursday, August 16, 2018

Invisible Institute launches expanded police misconduct database

Posted By on 08.16.18 at 06:00 AM

The new and improved Citizens Police Data Project is an even more powerful tool for tracking Chicago police misconduct - INVISIBLE INSTITUTE
  • Invisible Institute
  • The new and improved Citizens Police Data Project is an even more powerful tool for tracking Chicago police misconduct
An expansive new version of the Citizens Police Data Project has been unveiled by south-side journalism production company the Invisible Institute. The database, created by independent journalist Jamie Kalven, was already the largest public repository of Chicago police misconduct records. Now it's quadrupled in size to include more than 240,000 misconduct complaints made against more than 22,000 CPD officers going back to the late 1960s. The database has also been enhanced by the addition of Chicago Police Department use-of-force reports and officer commendation records.

Researchers at the institute are rolling out the new version of the database together with their own analysis of the data. They found that about one-fifth of the officers employed by CPD for a year or more between 2000 and 2016 had ten or more complaints against them, ranging from minor operational violations such as not wearing a seat belt while driving a squad car to accusations of severe beatings and shootings. Officers with ten or more complaints account for two-thirds of the records in CPDP's new database.

As has long been reported, very few complaints against officers are sustained, and even fewer result in any sort of discipline. Institute researchers found that of the nearly 112,000 complaints filed against officers between 2000 and 2016, just over 2 percent were sustained and just over 1 percent ended in an officer being suspended or fired. Complaints were sustained 20 times more frequently when filed by other cops than when filed by civilians. And white civilians' complaints were three times more likely to be sustained than black civilians' complaints.

The majority of complaints originate on the south and west sides—something the previous version of the database already demonstrated. But now it's possible to see the racial and socioeconomic context of the neighborhoods and police districts where allegations against officers are made. It's also possible to see the department's own records about officers' use of force. Though CPDP aggregates tens of thousands of these records, data analyst Andrew Fan (who, full disclosure, assisted with data analysis for one Reader story last year) cautions that this "isn't the last word" on officers' use of force. Institute staff believe that both officers and the department as a whole underreport use-of-force incidents.

Fan's analysis of the use-of-force reports showed that despite the steep decline in the city's black population since 2000, black people have steadily remained about three-quarters of the subjects of officers' use of force. Even in heavily white areas of town, black people are still disproportionately on the receiving end of officers' use of force.  Fan cited Jefferson Park on the far northwest side as an example. There less than 1 percent of the population is black, yet 14 percent of the subjects in officers' use-of-force reports between 2013 and 2015 were black.

The graphics in the new database offer a chance to see where any particular officer falls in relation to the rest of the force when it comes to allegations by civilians, by fellow officers, and use-of-force reports. Officers who are frequently accused together can be analyzed as a group. It's also possible to scroll through an officer's entire career history and see his or her transfers between districts and department awards. Often, Fan notes, the same incident involving the same officer will result in a misconduct complaint from a civilian as well as a commendation from the department.

In its announcement of the database rollout the institute notes additional "alarming trends" gleaned from the database: More than 6 percent of officers were accused of incidents of "physical domestic abuse" between 2000 and 2016. The officers with such accusations on their records also had a 50 percent higher rate of use-of-force complaints than the rest of their peers.

"I think the motives of the Invisible Institute are perfectly transparent," said Chicago police union spokesman Martin Preib when asked for comment about the new database. Preib declined to elaborate on what he thinks those motives are. A Chicago Police Department spokesman didn't return a request for comment. 

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Monday, August 6, 2018

Workshop explores alternatives to calling cops during mental health crises

Posted By on 08.06.18 at 01:00 PM

Timmy Rose of the People's Response Team playacts a moment of distress at the  workshop on alternatives to calling police during mental health crises. - MAYA DUKMASOVA
  • Maya Dukmasova
  • Timmy Rose of the People's Response Team playacts a moment of distress at the workshop on alternatives to calling police during mental health crises.

About two dozen people gathered in a community arts space in West Town on Saturday morning for a workshop titled "Alternatives to Calling Police During Mental Health Crises." The training was hosted by Make Yourself Useful—a group "committed to actively fortifying POC-led racial justice movements"—and led by abolitionist organizers from disability rights group Nothing About Us Without Us and the People's Response Team. Armed with statistics about the deadliness of police encounters for people with mental illness and developmental disabilities, and a familiarity with the depth—or lack thereof—of police Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training, the organizers introduced attendees to a variety of strategies for helping people experiencing a crisis to cope with it without dialing 911.

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How inmates at Cook County Jail curated the WorldScene Film Festival

Posted By on 08.06.18 at 06:00 AM

A Tropical Sunday
  • A Tropical Sunday
This Saturday at 7 PM, the International Children's Media Center (at 625 N. Kingsbury) will present a program of international short films titled "If Only." The films were selected by inmates at Cook County Correctional Facility as part of WorldScene, a 14-week arts residency and job training program designed, according to the ICMC, to "support self-determination among marginalized and court-involved youth ages 18-24." "If Only" consists of six films from six countries, which were selected from a pool of more than 150 entries. The program—which involves watching, discussing, and curating the entries—is the brainchild of ICMC executive director Nicole Dreiske, though she received ample support from Elli Montgomery, director of the Sheriff’s Anti-Violence Effort (SAVE) at the correctional facility. I spoke with Dreiske last week about the program’s design and how it affected the prisoners who took part in it.

I'm the cofounder of Facets and the founder of the Chicago International Children's Film Festival. I already had a profound interest in the short film, not just as an art form, but as a possible agent for social change. That's one of the reasons that I started the International Children's Media Center. We do a program for early childhood called "Screen Smart," which measurably improves learning for at-risk children. It also lays for the foundations for healthy screen habits.

Around 2012, I got very interested—after seeing what was happening in the schools with these short films [I screened]—I got very interested in using them in therapeutic settings. The first of these programs was called Global Girls, and it was done with Girls, Inc., in Sarasota, Florida. At that particular Girls, Inc., there were young women in middle schools who were being solicited into becoming prostitutes and drug mules. To their credit, the people at the agency were very concerned, and they were interested in showing these young ladies that their interest in media could not only lead to potential careers, but also build confidence.

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Monday, July 30, 2018

Trans woman Strawberry Hampton reports continued assaults while detained at men’s prisons

Posted By on 07.30.18 at 06:00 AM

Strawberry Hampton - THE BLACK LOOP
  • The Black Loop
  • Strawberry Hampton

Strawberry Hampton, a transgender woman currently serving a ten-year sentence for residential burglary at Dixon Correctional Center, the fourth male prison she's been transferred to within the year, filed new claims against the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) on July 17 stating that she's been sexually and physically assaulted by inmates and prison guards, and requesting she be transferred to Logan Correctional Center, a women's prison.

But her harassment at Dixon is only one episode in the ongoing abuse she claims to have suffered while in IDOC custody, according to her complaints. Hampton's lawsuit, filed on her behalf by the MacArthur Justice Center and the Uptown People's Law Center, argues that the IDOC has inappropriately assigned her to a men's prison, stating that  Hampton's "physical and emotional well-being are in jeopardy at Dixon, and will be in any men's facility."

"The IDOC has never articulated any reasons" for why they won't transfer Hampton, said Alan Mills, executive director of the Uptown People's Law Center, on Thursday. "The most they've said is that women sometimes get harassed in prison, so there's no guarantee she'd be protected."

Hampton has lived as a woman since she was five and has continued to do so through her incarceration. She is chemically castrated, and her testosterone levels are a fraction of the average male's.

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Friday, June 29, 2018

Should Chicago cops have to pay for their own misconduct insurance?

Posted By on 06.29.18 at 06:00 AM

Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke (right) with his attorney Dan Herbert. The family of Laquan McDonald, a teen Van Dyke killed in 2014, received a $5 million settlement from the city. - ANTONIO PEREZ/ CHICAGO TRIBUNE
  • Antonio Perez/ Chicago Tribune
  • Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke (right) with his attorney Dan Herbert. The family of Laquan McDonald, a teen Van Dyke killed in 2014, received a $5 million settlement from the city.

As of this month, Chicago is out another $22 million in police misconduct payouts. First, the city settled one lawsuit—brought by the family of Bettie Jones, an innocent bystander shot by police officer Robert Rialmo, who also killed Quintonio LeGrier in December 2015—for $16 million. A few days later, the City Council authorized a $6 million payment for two other police misconduct settlements.  A report about the cost of police misconduct settlements and judgments recently published by the Action Center on Race & the Economy, a group that researches racial injustice in the financial industry, estimates that Chicago has paid out more than $800 million for police misconduct lawsuits since 2004. The price tag could climb to more than $1 billion dollars when the cost of using bonds (aka borrowed money) to make these payments is factored in.

Currently it's taxpayers who are on the hook for all this. But do they have to be?

ACRE says no. Its report recommends making police officers take out liability insurance to cover them for misconduct lawsuits. "Officers whose behavior results in multiple misconduct claims will see their insurance premiums rise, creating a strong financial incentive for them to change their behavior," the report argues. Eventually, the insurance company would no longer want to cover officers who don't change their ways, and they'll thus become "unemployable." This would go a long way to to help change the culture of the whole department, ACRE argues. "Doctors have to take out malpractice insurance; so should police officers," the group says.

It's an idea that's gotten increased attention in the last few years—on both ends of the political spectrum. In 2016 community organizers in Minneapolis pushed for the city to make its officers take out liability insurance policies—though their efforts were ultimately unsuccessful. As the Atlantic reported last year, the rollback of DOJ oversight of local law enforcement means insurance companies may be the only institutions left with any leverage over police departments. Earlier this year a Cato Institute analyst opined that liability insurance for cops would save so much money its base premiums could even be subsidized by taxpayers: "We can take that pot of taxpayer money currently being used to pay damage awards for misbehaving cops . . . and use it to give them an insurance allowance," Clark Neily wrote in the New York Post. "When very-high-risk officers see premiums go up, they would have to pay the difference out of their own pockets."

Here's why this discussion is currently moot in Chicago: Since 1945, the state of Illinois has required the city to indemnify police officers. This means that the city, not the officer, has to pay out settlements and judgments when cops are sued in their official capacity. Though the law says that cops are not supposed to be indemnified "where the injury results from the willful misconduct of the police officer," in practice, no matter how egregious the situation, the city has always covered misconduct settlements and judgments.

According to a 2014 study of police indemnification around the country, this is reflective of national trends. Currently, the city is appealing a jury decision to award $44.7 million to Michael LaPorta, arguing that taxpayers shouldn't have to pay for the actions of CPD officer Patrick Kelly, who shot and nearly killed LaPorta, his friend, after a night of drinking while off duty in 2010. (Kelly has a long history of misconduct on duty as well, including shooting a man in the back and tasing a pregnant woman in the stomach. The city had already paid out more than a $1 million for his actions prior to the LaPorta verdict.)

Based on the high cost of police settlements, the city could have ample interest in lobbying Springfield for a change in the indemnification law. But even if that happened, there's the matter of the police union contract. It has an indemnification clause requiring the city to pay out judgments or settlements against officers.

And the city has shown no more willingness to fight the FOP on this clause than to fight for a change in state law. A 2016 City Council proposal to require liability insurance for CPD officers fizzled out, too. Even though many officers make close to six-figure salaries (as well as overtime), several experts told the Reader that premiums for liability insurance would likely be so onerous that they would discourage people from joining the force. Medical malpractice insurance premiums for doctors at highest risk of being sued—like surgeons and OB/GYNs—can be more than $100,000 per year.

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Friday, May 25, 2018

That time a Cook County judge ruled on the case of a man he himself put in prison when he was still a prosecutor

Posted By on 05.25.18 at 06:00 AM

A courtroom sketch of Judge Nicholas Ford presiding over bond court in 2002 - AP PHOTO/CAROL RENAUD
  • AP Photo/Carol Renaud
  • A courtroom sketch of Judge Nicholas Ford presiding over bond court in 2002

The Reader's archive is vast and varied, going back to 1971. Every day in Archive Dive, we'll dig through and bring up some finds.

Who are our judges? Supposedly impartial, neutral third parties, making unbiased decisions about matters both grave and frivolous. We imagine them to be even-keeled individuals, perhaps with some personal quirks, who keep their biases out of the cases they rule on. But that's just fantasy. The judges who staff our criminal and civil courts are elected by voters who usually pick them based on nothing more than the sound of their names. Or they're appointed by their colleagues. And those who ascend to the Cook County bench are lawyers who often have long histories as prosecutors or defense attorneys. Before that they may have been cops.

Jon Burge is somewhere in Florida, enjoying his boat and CPD pension as the city continues to pay out multimillion dollar settlements to his victims. But some of the Cook County prosecutors who convicted people based on confessions he and his buddies tortured out of them are still around. Some of them are judges now.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Spectator who exclaimed ‘What?’ in court jailed—without bail—during Jason Van Dyke hearing, activists say

Posted By on 03.13.18 at 12:20 AM

Tyrone Williams was one of two men ordered held without bail by Judge Vincent Gaughan at a hearing for Jason Van Dyke last week. - CHICAGO ALLIANCE AGAINST RACIST AND POLITICAL REPRESSION
  • Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression
  • Tyrone Williams was one of two men ordered held without bail by Judge Vincent Gaughan at a hearing for Jason Van Dyke last week.

As is usual during pretrial hearings in the case against former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke, advocates for police reform packed the pews in Judge Vincent Gaughan's courtroom last Thursday. Among them was 45-year-old Tyrone Williams, an activist with the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. Though Van Dyke, who faces first-degree murder charges for shooting and killing 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in October 2014, was the center of attention, plenty of other defendants were also waiting for hearings in front of Gaughan. Among them was 44-year-old Norman Hall. By the time Gaughan ended his court call on March 8, he'd ordered both Hall and Williams to be held at the Cook County Jail—without bail—for what witnesses describe as minor outbursts.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Second City Cop blog celebrates slain CPD commander

Posted By on 02.14.18 at 05:02 PM

In a rare show of respect toward a member of the Chicago Police Department's top brass, Second City Cop—the prolific, anonymous blog run by members of the department, which often features vicious commentary about both police leadership and citizens involved in crimes—points out that 18th District Commander Paul Bauer "held a rare position in regard to this website . . . we can't think of a single significant instance where he was the target of someone's ire."

Bauer, 53, a 31-year veteran of the force, was shot to death by a man at the Thompson Center Tuesday afternoon. Shomari Legghette, 44, has been charged with the murder.

SCC refers to Bauer as a "voice of reason" and praises him for his skepticism of criminal justice reform, such as Chief Judge Timothy Evans's push to make bonds more affordable and Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart's efforts to reducing the jail population. The blog quotes at length from an interview with Bauer about these issues that appeared on the Loop North News website last fall.

"It's certainly a refreshing honesty not often seen on this Department nowadays,"  SCC wrote. "And now it's silenced. He will be missed."

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Thursday, January 25, 2018

Chicago Data Collaborative launches criminal justice data portal

Posted By on 01.25.18 at 02:41 PM


Earlier this week the Chicago Data Collaborative quietly launched a website offering first of its kind access to local criminal justice data. Information about Chicago police stops and arrests, Cook County State's Attorney's Office charges, and Cook County Jail demographics is already public in theory, but it's often costly and time-consuming to access. Getting that info sometimes requires trips to special computer terminals at county offices or protracted negotiations with FOIA officers. Some documents and data, particularly those that relate to police activity, haven't been released until lawsuits compelled authorities to release them. Until now it's been difficult to connect the dots between data sets about the same person or case buried among various city and county agencies. The Chicago Data Collaborative—a cooperative of news outlets, transparency advocates, and research groups—will pool this data so that individual cases can be tracked throughout the web of the local criminal justice system, from a person's first encounter with police to the final outcome of a case in court.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

RIP Judge William Cousins, aka ‘The Prince of Darkness’

Posted By on 01.24.18 at 09:00 AM

Judge William Cousins Jr. in 1991 - BOB RINGHAM
  • Bob Ringham
  • Judge William Cousins Jr. in 1991

The Reader's archive is vast and varied, going back to 1971. Every day in Archive Dive, we'll dig through and bring up some finds.

William Cousins Jr., a former alderman, prosecutor, and Cook County circuit judge died last Saturday at the age of 90. As a judge, Cousins was known as "The Prince of Darkness" for the long hours he kept in the courtroom.

As Steve Bogira wrote in a 1988 Reader profile of Cousins, "Judges are no more anxious than anyone else to linger here [at the Criminal Courts building]. Judges set their own hours, and on sunny summer days, the choice between 18 holes at Beverly Country Club and another aggravated-battery trial at 26th Street is really no choice at all. According to a recent study by a court watchers group, most judges usually have given 26th Street the slip by 1 PM."

But Cousins's courtroom stayed open till late in the night because of the deliberate pace set by the judge, who always referred to himself  in the third person as "the court." "Cousins," Bogira wrote, "brings new meaning to the word 'deliberate.'" His rulings were long and detailed in order to forestall reversals in higher courts.

In order to write his profile, Bogira spent many (very long) days with Cousins and delved into his life story, from his early life in Mississippi through his growing up in Memphis and the south side, his years at the University of Illinois and Harvard Law, his service in the Korean War, and his rise in Chicago law and politics, where he was known as both incorruptible and an outspoken opponent of the death penalty. Throughout his life, Cousins faced prejudice and lost opportunities because he was African-American; he fought back against racism as deliberately and methodically as he ruled in court.

Bogira wrote:
He works the way he does at least in part because of his race. "I certainly feel that blacks, more often than not, have to do more. And if they don't do more, they will find themselves vanquished. Vanquished. They will find themselves to be denied the opportunity to advance, or at times even to retain what they have. My work gives me protection from some of the efforts that are made at times to move on certain people. This is my extra survival technique."

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