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Monday, November 26, 2018

Archive dive: how grassroots groups around Chicago put police abolitionist ideas into practice

Posted By on 11.26.18 at 10:56 AM

Jessica Disu didn’t always consider herself a police abolitionist, but an appearance on Fox News in 2016 made her the face of the movement. In a Reader article that same year she said, “our police is not working—we need to replace it with something new.” - DANIELLE A. SCRUGGS
  • Danielle A. Scruggs
  • Jessica Disu didn’t always consider herself a police abolitionist, but an appearance on Fox News in 2016 made her the face of the movement. In a Reader article that same year she said, “our police is not working—we need to replace it with something new.”

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

Is a Chicago without police a possibility? In the 2016 article "Abolish the police? Organizers say it's less crazy than it sounds." Reader staff writer Maya Dukmasova explored the history of abolitionism, spoke with local activists fighting for change, and reported the Chicago Police Department's response (or lack thereof) to the movement.

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Friday, October 5, 2018

The Jason Van Dyke case showed the danger of being ruled by fear

Posted By on 10.05.18 at 05:28 PM

Jason Van Dyke was found guilty of second-degree murder on Friday. - ANTONIO PEREZ/CHICAGO TRIBUNE
  • Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune
  • Jason Van Dyke was found guilty of second-degree murder on Friday.

Jason Van Dyke was found guilty of second-degree murder today, but in an overwhelming number of cases in America, if a cop shoots someone because he's angry he's considered a murderer, while if he shoots someone because he's scared, he's innocent.

We don't really know what was going on inside of the head of Jason Van Dyke when he shot LaQuan McDonald. It's possible that he was legitimately fearful when he shot the teen 16 times, as he and Laurence Miller—a Florida-based clinical psychologist—testified in the former police officer’s defense.

But an officer can be frightened and still act unjustly. It's worth interrogating that fear and deciding whether it's enough to justify murder, and if so whether it provides enough to base a system of justice upon.

Chris Hayes's 2017 book A Colony in a Nation does a masterful job of explaining how our, country once founded on principles of justice for all, now looks a lot like a police state.

He attributes a lot of the problem to a generalized sense of fear—particularly white people's racial fear of nonwhites. "We obsess over order, fear trumps civil rights," Hayes writes. Fear of crime waves, of terrorist attacks, gets converted into policy, and becomes the justification for the war on the drugs, the war on terror, mass incarceration, and on a more elemental level the police killings of young black men.

Today, the fear of what could happen if the Van Dyke verdict went the other way, and protesters—largely African-American—took to the streets in a rage caused all sorts of overreactions in Chicago.

The Chicago Police Department deployed 4,000 additional officers to the downtown area in anticipation of unrest. Many corporate offices in the city either told their employees to stay home or told them to leave early as soon as a verdict was reached. High schools across the city canceled sporting events. DePaul evacuated its entire Loop campus. 
All of this was deemed necessary even though, as WBEZ’s Natalie Moore noted on Twitter, there hasn't been a full-fledged riot in Chicago in 50 years, and while plenty of activists took to the streets after the 2015 release of the video showing Van Dyke shooting McDonald, the marches were overwhelmingly peaceful.

The case of Van Dyke isn't just a story about one man's exaggerated fear in the face of a 17-year-old who wielded a three-inch blade. It's the story of the strange contradiction at hand in Chicago and in America as a whole: the more safety we experience, the more we fear the loss of it and the more irrationally we act.

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Family of another teen slain by Chicago police reflects on Van Dyke verdict

Posted By on 10.05.18 at 04:35 PM

Calvin Cross was shot and killed by Chicago police officer in 2011. His family is still seeking justice. - COURTESY OF CROSS FAMILY
  • Courtesy of Cross family
  • Calvin Cross was shot and killed by Chicago police officer in 2011. His family is still seeking justice.

Jason Van Dyke was found guilty of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm this afternoon, nearly four years after he shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald and more than two years since the video of the incident was released to the public.

Three years before McDonald, in 2011, 19-year-old Calvin Cross was shot and killed by Chicago police officers in West Pullman. Chicago cops weren't yet mandated to wear body cameras. There were no dashcam recordings of the incident either. Cross was shot three times by officers Macario Chavez, Mohammed Ali, and Matilde Ocampo. He died on the scene.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Psychologist and defense witness at Van Dyke trial says police officers suffer from memory distortions under acute stress

Posted By on 09.25.18 at 10:30 PM

Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke listens to testimony during the second day of his trial for the shooting death of Laquan McDonald. - ANTONIO PEREZ/CHICAGO TRIBUNE
  • Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune
  • Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke listens to testimony during the second day of his trial for the shooting death of Laquan McDonald.

In October 2012, U.S. Border Patrol agent Lonnie Swartz shot and killed unarmed Mexican teenager José Antonio Elena Rodríguez through a border fence while responding to an incident in Nogales, Arizona. According to an autopsy, Rodriguez was struck ten times in the back with gunshot wounds to the head and arteries.

A grand jury indicted Swartz for second-degree murder. During the trial, Swartz testified that he fired on Rodriguez in self-defense after he heard rocks hitting the fence and "was scared to be hit by a rock, [scared] for my partner." He also stated that an officer had already been struck by a rock and that a police dog had also been injured, though testimony by other officers on the scene contradicted those statements.

Surveillance video of the shooting shows Swartz approach the fence with his gun drawn, fire through the fence three times, then move along the fence a few feet and shoot ten more times. After stepping back to reload, he fires another three times.

Swartz told the jury he couldn't remember doing any of that. He said he did recall sensing a second rock thrower in the area, though, and he also remembered throwing up after the shooting.

Prosecutors questioned why Swartz would remember details like throwing up and injuries to other officers yet fail to recall shooting at a subject. The defense called Laurence Miller, a Florida-based clinical psychologist in private practice, to help account for the discrepancy.

"What you actually see, what you actually hear, a lot of it depends on what you are paying attention to in that particular moment," Miller told the jury. In the case of a shooting situation, he explained, the brain focuses wholly on survival and can tune out everything else such that "some part of the scene is recalled especially vividly, while others are fuzzy or distorted."

As for Swartz's claim to have sensed a second rock thrower in the area, Miller testified that under intense stress, the brain may "magnify perceived threats of circumstances" to such an extent that the nonlethal can appear lethal in the moment.

In April, Swartz was acquitted of the second-degree murder charge. (Prosecutors are now trying him on charges of voluntary and involuntary manslaughter.) A juror later elaborated on the verdict, saying that no matter how strong its evidence, the prosecution couldn't prove that Swartz didn't feel in danger of losing his life.

Now Miller has been called as an expert witness by the defense in the murder trial of Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke, whose guilt would seem to be unassailable based on the infamous dashcam video that shows him firing 16 shots at 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who first appears to be moving away from the cops, then quickly falls to the ground as the shots continue.

Miller will testify that Van Dyke feared for his life when he shot Laquan McDonald, and that this mortal terror helps explain the discrepancies between his and other police reports and the videotape of the shooting. Specifically, he claims that Van Dyke's account could be the product of a brain under immense neuropsychological stress rather than a deliberate, self-serving attempt to obscure the facts of the case.

During open court in June, Cook County judge Vincent Gaughan cleared Miller's testimony after weeks of back-and-forth between prosecutors and Van Dyke's defense team about the admissability and even the relevance of his testimony. "The jury does not need Dr. Miller to tell them what thoughts were going through the defendant's mind before and during the shooting, because only the defendant can know that information," prosecutors maintained.

Miller specializes in working with law enforcement. He's written extensively about officer-involved shootings and the use of deadly force, with a focus on what happens neurologically in such incidents.

In a 2011 article published in the International Journal of Emergency Mental Health, Miller contends that approximately a third of officer-shooting cases involve a distortion of memory "to the extent that an officer's account of what happened differs markedly from the reports of other observers on the scene." According to Miller, even significant differences between video or eyewitness testimony and police accounts of shootings shouldn't automatically be taken to show that an officer was "lying or consciously distorting his or her report," because memory distortion is a side effect of the brain's hyperfocus on immediate danger.

In critical shooting situations, Miller says, "the brain naturally tries to tone the hyperarousal." In effect, the parts of the brain that help with memory storage are shut down, so the brain can respond to perceived threats rapidly. Under these circumstances, officers' recollections of their actions during a shooting may be wildly off-base or missing entirely.

The jury's still out on Miller's claims. According to Jordan Grafman, a neurology and cognition professor at Northwestern University, there is some data that suggests persistent stress can affect a person's memory, but much more testing is needed before any further conclusions can be drawn.

Lab experiments on rats have shown that "under conditions of persistent stress, there is neuronal loss in the hippocampus," Grafman said. "It may affect it enough that it then affects what we would call episodic memory, conscious retrieval of what just happened."

But rats are rats, and employing similar experiments on human subjects is obviously problematic. "I can't go to Northwestern University and say I want to stress people out for years" in order to conduct a controlled experiment, Grafman said. "So, if you're asking me do we have very certain data about that, we do with animals," he continued, "but [nothing] comparable to humans."

Grafman also noted that many of the memory-distortion studies Miller refers to rely on subjects' self-evaluations or interviews after the fact—not exactly clean data. Moreover, he said, there are other factors that can contribute to distortion of memory that need to be acknowledged.

"There is always going to be individual responses depending on everything from genetics [to your ability] to handle stress, your psychology, your resilience," he said. "Unless you have a significant amount of detail on the individual before the incident it's going to be hard to be precise.

"This application of neuroscience and cognitive science is starting to tippy-toe into the court room," Grafman added, "but the research is not quite there yet."

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Friday, September 7, 2018

A jury expert weighs in on what to expect in the Jason Van Dyke trial

Posted By on 09.07.18 at 06:00 AM

Jason Van Dyke's bail was raised slightly for giving media interviews just days before jury selection was set to begin. Critics accused the defense of trying to bias the jury pool. - ANTONIO PEREZ/CHICAGO TRIBUNE
  • Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune
  • Jason Van Dyke's bail was raised slightly for giving media interviews just days before jury selection was set to begin. Critics accused the defense of trying to bias the jury pool.

Jury selection in the murder trial of former Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke began this week. Nearly four years after he fired 16 shots into 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, and nearly three years after he was indicted for the on-duty shooting, Van Dyke's attorneys and the special prosecutor have commenced the painstaking process of picking the 12 men and women who will evaluate his actions.

According to data released this year by the Cook County State's Attorney's Office, just 1 percent of the some 300,000 felony cases in the county have been decided by a jury since 2009. Typically, a pool of potential jurors is selected randomly from a list of Cook County residents compiled from state driver's license records and voter registration rolls. For each case, the number of jurors in the pool varies, but for the Van Dyke trial an exceptionally large pool of more than 100 people was called for evaluation. On Wednesday selection began with a written questionnaire administered to potential jurors.

Attorney and psychologist Shari Seidman Diamond, an expert on juries and a professor at Northwestern University's Pritzker School of Law, says paper questionnaires are "not atypical of large, publicly notorious kinds of cases." The questionnaire will allow special prosecutor Joseph McMahon, Van Dyke's defense attorney Dan Herbert, and Judge Vincent Gaughan to weed out people who clearly couldn't be impartial before beginning one-on-one interviews with each potential juror (known as voir dire). The questionnaire is also "a good idea on psychological grounds," she adds, because people may feel more at ease disclosing information about themselves in writing than speaking up in front of a packed courtroom.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Rapper Vic Mensa: Chicago’s newest Black Panther?

Posted By on 08.28.18 at 02:35 PM

Vic Mensa helped give away 15,000 free shoes in Englewood on Sunday. - RICK MAJEWSKI/SUN-TIMES
  • Rick Majewski/Sun-Times
  • Vic Mensa helped give away 15,000 free shoes in Englewood on Sunday.

The timing of Vic Mensa's high-profile response this past weekend to a Chicago police sting operation was more than a little serendipitous.

Remnants of the old Black Panther Party gathered in Oakland on the same weekend of the young rapper's "anti-bait truck" event to mourn the recent death of Elbert "Big Man" Howard, one of the organization's founders. This week also marked the 50th anniversary of Bobby Seale's arrest in Chicago for his role in planning the anti-war protests outside the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

On Sunday, the 25-year-old Mensa looked ready to assume the Black Panther mantle—and not just because he's got one tattooed on his shoulder accompanied by the words "Free Huey."

Among the many organizations and individuals involved in the giveaway were the New Black Panther Party of Chicago and Fred Hampton Jr., the son of slain Panthers leader Fred Hampton. And over the course of a 15-minute conversation inside a scorching-hot room at the West Englewood Community Center, Mensa quoted Angela Davis and Mao Zedong and dropped the name of Huey Newton. When asked what role he might personally play in police reform in Chicago, he said, "At the end of the day, what we're doing right here is an extension of what we learned from the Black Panther Party, to police the police."

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Saturday, August 25, 2018

Why the nationwide strike against ‘modern-day slavery’ may not reach Illinois. And why it's already here.

Posted By on 08.25.18 at 06:00 AM

The barbershop run by inmates at Stateville Correctional Center is one of the few vocational opportunities in IDOC. - FRANK VAISVILAS/SUN-TIMES
  • Frank Vaisvilas/Sun-Times
  • The barbershop run by inmates at Stateville Correctional Center is one of the few vocational opportunities in IDOC.

On August 21, incarcerated people in at least 17 different states launched a 19-day "strike" in response to an April riot at South Carolina's Lee Correctional Institution that left seven inmates dead. Organized by a South Carolina-based group of incarcerated individuals calling themselves Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, the strike was rolled out with a list of ten demands challenging conditions of "modern day slavery" at state and federal jails and prisons and immigration detention centers. The demands, circulated on social media and endorsed by more than 150 allied groups, are as follows:

1. Immediate improvements to the conditions of prisons and prison policies that recognize the humanity of imprisoned men and women.

2. An immediate end to prison slavery. All persons imprisoned in any place of detention under United States jurisdiction must be paid the prevailing wage in their state or territory for their labor.

3. The Prison Litigation Reform Act must be rescinded, allowing imprisoned humans a proper channel to address grievances and violations of their rights.

4. The Truth in Sentencing Act and the Sentencing Reform Act must be rescinded so that imprisoned humans have a possibility of rehabilitation and parole. No human shall be sentenced to Death by Incarceration or serve any sentence without the possibility of parole.

5. An immediate end to the racial overcharging, over-sentencing, and parole denials of Black and brown humans. Black humans shall no longer be denied parole because the victim of the crime was white, which is a particular problem in southern states.

6. An immediate end to racist gang enhancement laws targeting Black and brown humans.

7. No imprisoned human shall be denied access to rehabilitation programs at their place of detention because of their label as a violent offender.

8. State prisons must be funded specifically to offer more rehabilitation services.

9. Pell grants must be reinstated in all US states and territories.

10. The voting rights of all confined citizens serving prison sentences, pretrial detainees, and so-called “ex-felons” must be counted. Representation is demanded. All voices count!
The organizers wrote that the protest would be enacted through peaceful sit-ins, refusals to work, commissary boycotts, hunger strikes, and other nonviolent means of resistance. But it's the strike of prison work that seems to have attracted heightened media attention.

In some states prisoners are required to work difficult or dangerous jobs—such as fighting wildfires, farming, and manufacturing—for little or no pay. In others, private prisons contract with private companies to provide cheap labor. But in Illinois (where there are no private prisons), prison work is actually so scarce that inmates may not be striking against it.

Until the mid-1990s, the Illinois Department of Corrections had a robust vocational training program and on- and off-site job opportunities for inmates. In more recent years, however, prison jobs, apprenticeships, and educational programs have all but disappeared. Most inmates in IDOC now spend more than 20 hours a day confined to their cells—even if they're not technically in solitary confinement or segregation, according to Alan Mills of the Uptown People's Law Center, which regularly represents IDOC inmates in civil rights lawsuits.

"Unlike many states where the problem is prisoners are forced to do jobs that are horrible with very little money, in Illinois prisoners are made to sit in their cells with nothing whatsoever to do," Mills explains. Because of this, jobs are highly coveted among his IDOC clients. Many feel that "even if a job is poorly paid it's an improvement to confinement," Mills says.

Brian Nelson, 53, who works as a prisoners' rights coordinator at UPLC and who was incarcerated at IDOC between 1982 and 2010, agrees that Illinois prisoners are unlikely to be striking specifically against prison work.

"In the 80s, when I first got locked up, there was a lot of jobs, a lot of industries in IDOC, and almost everybody had a job or went to school," Nelson says. He recalls a furniture factory at Stateville; a broom, mattress, and cigarette factory at Menard; street sign and license place manufacturing at Pontiac. Medium-security facilities had telemarketing centers and farms. Then IDOC was hit with a combination of state and federal budget cuts and scandals about leniency toward inmates—most notably salacious video revelations of Richard Speck, convicted for murdering eight women in 1966, using drugs and bragging about having "fun" in prison.

Both Mills and Nelson say the Speck scandal gave IDOC a pretext to crack down and curb jobs and other programs. Just a couple of years before that, the Clinton administration eliminated Pell grants for prisoner higher education through the 1994 crime bill, which also ratcheted up the war on drugs. IDOC made promises about expanding programming for inmates once it removed "troublemakers" from the general population and put them into the newly constructed Tamms "supermax" in 1998, but that never transpired.

Pay for jobs in IDOC kitchens, laundries, law libraries, and facilities maintenance varies. Nelson recalls jobs like gallery sweeping paying $15 per month, and kitchen jobs paying between $25 and $35 per month. The factory jobs were better paid, up to $300 per month.

Nelson spent two years in the late 1990s in a New Mexico prison (part of Illinois's Interstate Compact Agreement to transfer prisoners to other states for security reasons). There he was trained as a tailor and remembers having consistent work and opportunities for free movement. "Everybody out there was given trust until you messed it up," he recalls. He got to keep 30 percent of his paycheck for commissary, a portion of his earnings went into a victims' restitution fund, and another portion was saved on prisoners' behalf "for when you went home." When he came back to IDOC in 1998 he went straight to Tamms, where there was no work at all, and he spent the next 12 years in solitary confinement.

Nelson says he knows about 100 other people who've left IDOC. "Out of all my friends that have been released only three of us have a full-time job. Most are on social security." He says the lack of education and training in prison are to blame, and it causes many formerly incarcerated people to give up hope once they get out.

IDOC spokeswoman Lindsey Hess couldn't confirm the number of inmates currently employed at prison jobs or with partner organizations. In an e-mail, she said the department had not had any reports of "offenders participating in this strike."

In addition to the scarcity of prison work, another impediment to the prison strike in Illinois could be the notoriously harsh repression of prisoner organizing. Mills and Nelson both shared stories of crackdowns on politically and religiously motivated organizing attempts at IDOC. "If more than three prisoners are seen talking together they can be charged with gang activity," Mills says. "They lose their jobs and they'd get sent to solitary."

Mills says members of a Christian group at Menard were charged with "unauthorized organizational activity" for holding a prayer meeting on the prison yard in the early 2000s. At Pontiac in 2013, an inmate who discussed principles of anarchism with someone else was accused of gang activity, sent to months of solitary confinement, and had "good time" (which earns early release) revoked. Nelson recalls the severe punishment of a group of inmates at Pontiac that same year who held a hunger strike against living conditions and indefinite solitary confinement. One of the hunger strikers was cited "for us being outside the prison [in solidarity]," Nelson says. "They took a year good time from him and gave him a year of solitary."

But artist and activist Monica Cosby, who was incarcerated between 1995 and 2015, says the disincentives for organizing and the lack of IDOC reports of coordinated participation in the nationwide strike doesn't mean that inmates aren't actively resisting their conditions. "Our resistance lives in us all day long because we choose to be alive [in women's prison]," she says. "We cook for each other, we celebrate with each other when one of our kids graduates high school, or goes to prom, we cry with each other, we love each other."

In addition to harsh punishment for political organizing Cosby says incarcerated women face retribution for the refusal of guards' sexual overtures. The danger isn't just winding up in solitary confinement or losing a release date, but losing coveted visits with children. "When [correctional officers] come at us and make sexual advances and we say no and know what can happen to us when we say no—that's resistance," Cosby says.

In her experience across Illinois's women's prisons, jobs were also scarce and paid between $15 and $150 per month. Cosby was in a cooking and baking apprenticeship program for about six years and made at most $65 per month, but the program "got destroyed" in the early 2000s. Some jobs may seem like good opportunities but required indignities some inmates didn't want to submit to. "If it was a job I might have been interested in but knew I'd have to be strip-searched to go in or come out, I didn't want to do it," Cosby explains. That kind of resistance—while individual and not apparently organized, still counts, she says. "It's resistance every day."

Cosby thinks many people erroneously think women don't organize in prison, but that in fact the social bonds people form are in themselves a form of organizing. "The fullest relationships I ever had, I had in prison," she says. "There's this massive communication and cooperation, it just doesn't look as dramatic."

She recalled a friend named Victoria taking her own life while she was at Logan—"IDOC killed her by suicide," Cosby says. At first, she recalls, "they wouldn't let us have a funeral or memorial service for her. And when we were allowed to do the service we weren't allowed to say her name."  In response, the women organized to wear something purple—Victoria's favorite color—on a specific day. It was to remember their friend "and to say fuck you to the warden." An action like this is among the many ways people in prison protest on a daily basis, "and it's just as powerful as any other, just as legitimate."

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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 (CPDP) 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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