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Sunday, October 15, 2017

Police Misconduct in Chicago: The Forgotten Past

To return to the topic of the DOJ Report on Chicago policing, I wanted to write a bit in this post and some later ones about other investigations into policing in Chicago that the DOJ ignored in its report. These other investigations are less well-known than the Kerner and Walker commission reports, so it’s worthwhile giving them attention for a moment or two. They are historically interesting on their own. At the same time, as my summaries suggest, they are evidence of the longstanding patterns and practices of police misconduct are in Chicago.

The first investigation, conducted in the summer of 1972, resulted in a report titled “The Misuse of Police Authority in Chicago,” prepared after a four-day blue-ribbon panel on police misconduct organized by Ralph Metcalfe. It was prompted by the grassroots efforts of the Third Ward Committee on Crime Prevention, which was concerned with the rise of crime in Chicago’s majority black neighborhoods and increasing instances of police misconduct.

The Third Ward Committee might have been as concerned with crime as it was with policing, but the blue-ribbon panel was only interested in the latter. In June and July 1972, Metcalfe, then a congressman representing the part of Chicago’s south side that included the third ward, and his multi-racial panel took testimony from Black, Latino, and white witnesses about instances of police brutality on the city’s predominantly black and brown south and west sides. The complaints ran an all too familiar gamut: a dentist complained about a police encounter following a routine traffic stop (he was missing a light over his license plate) that resulted in injuries to his wrists that prevented him from working for several days (Report, p. 2). A mother recounted how her son was shot to death by a police officer at a local public high school; her account that included claims that suggested the officer planted a gun near her son to justify the shooting (Report, p. 4). A gym teacher described a beating at the hands of twelve to fifteen white police officers (Report, p. 10). Many of the witnesses testified that police officers called them names (from n***r to “Black m**** f****” to “dirty Puerto Rican”). Most of the witnesses also testified that their complaints about their mistreatment to the Internal Affairs Division (IAD), the section of the police department assigned to handle police misconduct claims, were ignored.

The panel treated the problem of misconduct as a failure of policing, specifically the related failures to hire minority officers, train those officers who were hired, or investigate or discipline officers who were accused of abuse. Although high-ranking police officials ignored Metcalfe’s invitation to appear before the panel, the panel did hear from several experts on police hiring and training, and reviewed materials gathered by the Chicago Bar Association and the Law Enforcement Study Group. In addition, the panel considered the documentation gathered by the Afro-American Patrolmen’s League and lawyers affiliated with the ACLU of Illinois for Calvin v. Conlisk (72 C 3230), a civil rights case that charged that Chicago failed to properly train and discipline police officers.

The recommendations of the report echoed those discussed in Locking Up Our Own (esp. ch. 3);  they also sound uncomfortably similar to some of the police reform efforts discussed in Chicago today. The report called for increased public oversight and police accountability to the public (Report, pp. 60-61).  Among other things, it recommended that the department’s hiring and promotion practices (which it characterized as discriminatory) be reformed (Report, p. 62), and it recommended the creation of an independent (of the police department) investigative agency that would be charged with hearing claims of police misconduct and abuse (Report, pp. 65-59). And it called for an immediate end to an immediate end to aggressive patrol policies and a halt to the practice of stopping “Brown persons …by policemen for the sole purpose of investigating residency status” (Report, p. 74).

 

Posted by Elizabeth Dale on October 15, 2017 at 01:46 PM | Permalink

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