Hers is a classic example of why there is so much distrust of government. This is a Democratic administration with a Democratic Attorney General investigating a situation everyone can agree is tragic (crime in Chicago) in a city under a Democratic ally (Rahm Emanuel). It was a great opportunity to demonstrate government competence to improve services to and justice for citizens. But, having read Mac Donald, you are compelled to agree that at the very least this was a missed opportunity and at worst it is Exhibit A of de minimis intellectuals trying, through deception and ignorance, to arrive at a predetermined ideological answer which will in fact make things worse.
The most important statement in the Justice Department’s damning report on the Chicago Police Department has nothing to do with police behavior. Released on Friday, the report found the Chicago police guilty of a “pattern or practice” of unconstitutional force. But it turns out that the Justice Department has no standard for what constitutes a “pattern or practice” (the phrase comes from a 1994 federal statute) of unconstitutional police conduct. “Statistical evidence is not required” for a “pattern or practice” finding, the DOJ lawyers announce, citing unrelated court precedent. Nor is there “a specific number of incidents” required to constitute a “pattern or practice,” they proclaim.All bad enough, but illustrating the confusion and dysfunction among ideological policy pundits, Mac Donald provides context.
Having cleared themselves of any obligation to provide “a specific number of [unconstitutional] incidents” or a statistical benchmark for evaluating them, the DOJ attorneys proceed to ignore any further obligation of transparency. The reader never learns how many incidents of allegedly unconstitutional behavior the Justice Department found, nor how those incidents compare with the universe of police-civilian contacts conducted by the Chicago Police Department. No clue is provided regarding why the DOJ lawyers concluded that the alleged abuses reached the mysterious threshold for constituting a pattern or practice. Instead, the report uses waffle words like “several,” “often,” or “many” as a substitute for actual quantification. This vacuum of information hasn’t stopped the mainstream media from trumpeting the report as yet another exposé of abusive, racist policing. EXCESSIVE FORCE IS RIFE IN CHICAGO, U.S. REVIEW FINDs, read the headline on the New York Times’s front-page story, which went on to note that the excessive force was “chiefly aimed at African-Americans and Latinos.”
The report does disclose that the DOJ attorneys reviewed 425 incidents of less-than-lethal force between January 2011 and April 2016. But what proportion of total force incidents those 425 events represent or how many of those 425 incidents the federal lawyers found unconstitutional isn’t revealed. As to how many stops and arrests were made over that same time period that didn’t involve the use of force, the reader can only guess.
We also learn that the federal civil rights team identified 203 officer-involved shootings between January 1, 2011, and March 21, 2016. How many of those were bad shootings? Fifteen? One hundred? The reader is left in the dark. The massive New York Police Department averaged 48 shootings a year from 2005 to 2015. The per-capita rate of officer shootings in the NYPD is therefore much lower than in the Chicago Police Department, which is about a third the size. But Chicago’s crime rate is much higher than New York’s; CPD officers confront many more armed and resisting suspects. It would have been useful to know how the ratio of officer-involved shootings to criminal shootings in Chicago compares to other cities. We don’t even learn how many of those 203 officer-involved shootings in Chicago were lethal.
The absence of any quantified evidence for DOJ’s judgment of systemic abuse is all the more significant, since it was only yesterday that Chicago law enforcement was the darling of the left-wing academic establishment. In 2010, the New York City Bar Association held a forum on the New York Police Department, during which Columbia University law professor Jeffrey Fagan and Yale University law professor Tracey Meares both touted the Chicago department as a model that the big, bad NYPD should emulate. (I participated on that bar panel as well.) Meares and her Yale colleague Tom Tyler have used the Chicago Police Department as a laboratory for their concept of “procedural justice and legitimacy.” The Obama administration’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing incorporated the procedural justice idea from Chicago into its May 2015 report; the Justice Department distributes the Chicago procedural justice curriculum to other departments, according to Time magazine. John Jay College of Criminal Justice professor David Kennedy worked with Chicago on his theory of violence reduction. Garry McCarthy, who was superintendent of the Chicago Police Department during the period covered by the DOJ’s report, presented himself as a “reform” commander focused on community relations, and he was received as such by academia and the media. The Chicago PD’s extensive collaboration with academic researchers was the hot topic during a November 2015 conference of the American Society of Criminology, reports Time.She then administers a firm headslap.
It wouldn’t be a Justice Department civil rights report without a spurious population benchmark to measure allegedly biased policing. The Chicago report notes portentously that blacks were the subjects of 76 percent of force incidents between 2011 and early 2016, while whites were only 8 percent of force subjects, though blacks and whites are each about a third of Chicago’s population. Ergo, biased policing.It is outrageous and I am not black nor do I live in Chicago. All our citizens deserve even-handed justice and security and our poorest citizens in Chicago are getting neither with no prospect, given the work of ideologues, bureaucrats, and pundits, of getting to a point where that is what is being achieved.
Here is the data that you will never find in any Justice Department civil rights report. In 2014, a thoroughly representative year, blacks made up 79 percent of all known non-fatal shooting suspects in Chicago, 85 percent of all known robbery suspects, and 77 percent of all known murder suspects, according to police department records. Whites were 1 percent of known non-fatal shooting suspects in 2014, 2.5 percent of known robbery suspects, and 5 percent of known murder suspects, the latter category being composed almost exclusively of domestic violence incidents. Whites are virtually absent from the population of violent street criminals, which is the population against which police force is most likely to be used. There is no evidence, in other words, that the use of force is racially biased.