Category Archives: Policing

Chicago: The Wild, Wild West

Well, you asked for it. Be thankful.
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WSJ 6/16/2016

By Heather Mac Donald

Someone was shot in Chicago every 150 minutes during the first five months of 2016. Someone was murdered every 14 hours, and the city saw nearly 1,400 nonfatal shootings and 240 fatalities from gunfire. Over Memorial Day weekend, 69 people were shot, nearly one an hour, topping the previous year’s tally of 53 shootings. The violence is spilling from the Chicago’s gang-infested South and West Sides into the business district downtown. Lake Shore Drive has seen drive-by shootings and robberies.

The growing mayhem is the result of Chicago police officers’ withdrawing from proactive enforcement, making the city a dramatic example of what I have called the Ferguson effect. Since the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in August 2014, the conceit that American policing is lethally racist has dominated media and political discourse, from the White House on down. Cops in minority neighborhoods in Chicago and other cities have responded by backing away from pedestrian stops and public-order policing; criminals are flourishing in the vacuum.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel warned in October 2015 that officers were going “fetal” as the violence grew. But 2016 produced an even sharper reduction in proactive enforcement. Failures in city leadership after a horrific police shooting, coupled with an ill-considered pact between the American Civil Liberties Union and the police department, are driving that reduction. Residents of Chicago’s high-crime areas are paying the price.

Most victims in the current crime wave are already known to police. Four-fifths of the Memorial Day shooting victims were on the Chicago Police Department’s list of gang members deemed most prone to violence. But innocents are being attacked as well: a 6-year-old girl playing outside her grandmother’s house earlier this month, wounded by gunfire to her back and lungs; a 49-year-old female dispatcher with the city’s 311 call center, killed in May while standing outside a Starbucks a few blocks from police headquarters; a worker driving home at night from her job at FedEx, shot four times in the head while waiting at an intersection, saved by the cellphone at her ear.

Police officers who try to intervene in this disorder often face virulent pushback. “People are a hundred times more likely to resist arrest,” a police officer who has worked a decade and a half on the South Side told me. “People want to fight you; they swear at you. ‘F— the police, we don’t have to listen,’ they say. I haven’t seen this kind of hatred towards the police in my career.”

Anti-police animus is nothing new in Chicago. But the post Ferguson Black Lives Matter narrative about endemically racist cops has made the street dynamic much worse. A detective told me: “From patrol to investigation, it’s almost an undoable job now. If I get out of my car, the guys get hostile right away.” Bystanders sometimes aggressively interfere, requiring more officers to control the scene.

In March 2015, the ACLU of Illinois accused the Chicago PD of engaging in racially biased stops, locally called “investigatory stops,” because its stop rate did not match population ratios. Blacks were 72% of all stop subjects during a four-month period in 2014, said the ACLU, compared to 9% for whites. By the ACLU’s reasoning, with blacks and whites each making up roughly 32% of the city’s populace, the disparity in stops proves racial profiling.

This by now familiar and ludicrously inadequate benchmarking methodology ignores the incidence of crime. In 2014 blacks in Chicago made up 79% of all known nonfatal shooting suspects, 85% of all known robbery suspects, and 77% of all known murder suspects, according to police-department data. Whites were 1% of known nonfatal shooting suspects in 2014, 2.5% of known robbery suspects, and 5% of known murder suspects, the latter number composed disproportionately of domestic homicides. Whites are nearly absent among violent street criminals—the group that proactive policing aims to deter.

Despite the groundlessness of these racial-bias charges, then-Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy and the city’s corporation counsel signed an agreement in August 2015 giving the ACLU oversight of stop activity. The agreement also created an independent monitor. “Why McCarthy agreed to put the ACLU in charge is beyond us,” a homicide detective told me.

On Jan. 1 the department rolled out a new form for documenting investigatory stops to meet ACLU demands. The new form, called a contact card, was two pages long, with 70 fields of information to be filled out. This template dwarfs even arrest reports and takes at least 30 minutes to complete. Every card goes to the ACLU for review.

The arrangement had the intended deterrent effect: Police stops dropped nearly 90% in the first quarter of 2016. “Gangbangers now realize that no one will stop them,” says a former high-ranking official with the department. People who wouldn’t have carried a gun before are now armed, a South Side officer told me. Cops say the solution is straightforward: “If tomorrow we still had to fill out the new forms, but they no longer went to the ACLU, stops would increase,” a detective said.

A profound pall also hangs over the department because of a shockingly unjustified police homicide and the missteps of top brass and the mayor in handling it. In October 2014, 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, behaving erratically and suspected of breaking into cars, was shot to death by a Chicago police officer. A police dashboard camera captured the terrible scene as he was killed despite not posing an immediate threat.

The police department never corrected the initial reports that falsely portrayed the shooting as justified— until a judge ordered the video’s release in November 2015. The police department had cleared the officers involved; now one is charged with murder. Mayor Emanuel fired Superintendent McCarthy and appointed a task force that subsequently accused the Chicago police of systemic racism.

Mr. McCarthy says he didn’t release the video or correct the record because he didn’t want to compromise a federal investigation. That is a justified protocol under ordinary circumstances. But this was no ordinary shooting, and the damage done by the prolonged false narrative, also left uncorrected by City Hall, is incalculable.

Mayor Emanuel, genuflecting to the city’s activists, has adopted many of his task force’s sweeping recommendations. Yet the premise of those recommendations— that the department is fatally racist and brutal—is false. The McDonald shooting was a tragic aberration. In 2015, even as crime was increasing under the Ferguson effect, the Chicago police shot 30 people, eight fatally, representing 1.6% of the 492 homicides that year. Chicago’s ratio of fatal police shootings to criminal homicide deaths is less than the national average; among the 10 most populous cities, the department’s per capita rate of fatal shootings is far less than that in Phoenix, Dallas and Philadelphia, even though the Chicago PD takes more guns off the street than any other police department in the nation.

I recently met Felicia Moore in a South Side neighborhood late one night. A wiry middle-aged woman with tattoos on her face and the ravaged frame of a former drug addict, she told me: “I’ve been in Chicago all my life, it’s never been this bad. Mothers and grandchildren are scared to come out on their porch.” Mayor Emanuel needs to quickly reassure Chicago police officers that they will be supported for proactive policing before more lives are lost.

Ms. Mac Donald is the Thomas W. Smith fellow at the Manhattan Institute and the author of “The War on Cops,” out this month from Encounter Books. This op-ed was adapted from an article for the summer issue of the institute’s City Journal.

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Please, Don’t Confuse Me With Facts

I’m sure Bernie and Hillary will help get the facts out in the open soon.
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WSJ 2/12/2016
By Heather Mac Donald

A television ad for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign now airing in South Carolina shows the candidate declaring that “too many encounters with law enforcement end tragically.” She later adds: “We have to face up to the hard truth of injustice and systemic racism.”

Her Democratic presidential rival, Bernie Sanders, met with the Rev. Al Sharpton on Wednesday. Mr. Sanders then tweeted that “As President, let me be very clear that no one will fight harder to end racism and reform our broken criminal justice system than I will.” And he appeared on the TV talk show “The View” saying, “It is not acceptable to see unarmed people being shot by police officers.” Apparently the Black Lives Matter movement has convinced Democrats and progressives that there is an epidemic of racist white police officers killing young black men. Such rhetoric is going to heat up as Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Sanders court minority voters before the Feb. 27 South Carolina primary.

But what if the Black Lives Matter movement is based on fiction? Not just the fictional account of the 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., but the utter misrepresentation of police shootings generally.

To judge from Black Lives Matter protesters and their media and political allies, you would think that killer cops pose the biggest threat to young black men today. But this perception, like almost everything else that many people think they know about fatal police shootings, is wrong.

The Washington Post has been gathering data on fatal police shootings over the past year and a half to correct acknowledged deficiencies in federal tallies. The emerging data should open many eyes.

For starters, fatal police shootings make up a much larger proportion of white and Hispanic homicide deaths than black homicide deaths. According to the Post database, in 2015 officers killed 662 whites and Hispanics, and 258 blacks. (The overwhelming majority of all those police-shooting victims were attacking the officer, often with a gun.) Using the 2014 homicide numbers as an approximation of 2015’s, those 662 white and Hispanic victims of police shootings would make up 12% of all white and Hispanic homicide deaths. That is three times the proportion of black deaths that result from police shootings.

The lower proportion of black deaths due to police shootings can be attributed to the lamentable black-on-black homicide rate. There were 6,095 black homicide deaths in 2014—the most recent year for which such data are available—compared with 5,397 homicide deaths for whites and Hispanics combined. Almost all of those black homicide victims had black killers.

Police officers—of all races—are also disproportionately endangered by black assailants. Over the past decade, according to FBI data, 40% of cop killers have been black. Officers are killed by blacks at a rate 2.5 times higher than the rate at which blacks are killed by police.

Some may find evidence of police bias in the fact that blacks make up 26% of the police-shooting victims, compared with their 13% representation in the national population. But as residents of poor black neighborhoods know too well, violent crimes are disproportionately committed by blacks. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, blacks were charged with 62% of all robberies, 57% of murders and 45% of assaults in the 75 largest U.S. counties in 2009, though they made up roughly 15% of the population there.

Such a concentration of criminal violence in minority communities means that officers will be disproportionately confronting armed and often resisting suspects in those communities, raising officers’ own risk of using lethal force.

The Black Lives Matter movement claims that white officers are especially prone to shooting innocent blacks due to racial bias, but this too is a myth. A March 2015 Justice Department report on the Philadelphia Police Department found that black and Hispanic officers were much more likely than white officers to shoot blacks based on “threat misperception”—that is, the mistaken belief that a civilian is armed.

A 2015 study by University of Pennsylvania criminologist Greg Ridgeway, formerly acting director of the National Institute of Justice, found that, at a crime scene where gunfire is involved, black officers in the New York City Police Department were 3.3 times more likely to discharge their weapons than other officers at the scene.

The Black Lives Matter movement has been stunningly successful in changing the subject from the realities of violent crime. The world knows the name of Michael Brown but not Tyshawn Lee, a 9-year-old black child lured into an alley and killed by gang members in Chicago last fall. Tyshawn was one of dozens of black children gunned down in America last year. The Baltimore Sun reported on Jan. 1: “Blood was shed in Baltimore at an unprecedented pace in 2015, with mostly young, black men shot to death in a near-daily crush of violence.”

Those were black lives that mattered, and it is a scandal that outrage is heaped less on the dysfunctional culture that produces so many victims than on the police officers who try to protect them.

Ms. Mac Donald is the Thomas W. Smith fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of “The War on Cops,” forthcoming in July from Encounter Books.

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Hiding the Rise of Violent Crime

Not getting the attention it needs to get.  I’m disappointed, though not surprised, that the Obama administration as well as many on the Left do not want to have a more open discussion.  Where is the Reverend Jesse Jackson? Where is Al Sharpton? Where is Eric Holder?
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By Heather Mac Donald
Dec. 25, 2015 1:09 p.m. WSJ

Murders and shootings have spiked in many American cities—and so have efforts to ignore or deny the crime increase. The see-no-evil campaign eagerly embraced a report last month by the Brennan Center for Justice called “Crime in 2015: A Preliminary Analysis.” Many progressives and their media allies hailed the report as a refutation of what I and others have dubbed the “Ferguson effect”— cops backing off from proactive policing, demoralized by the ugly vitriol directed at them since a police shooting in Ferguson, Mo., last year. Americans are being asked to disbelieve both the Ferguson effect and its result: violent crime flourishing in the ensuing vacuum.

In fact, the Brennan Center’s report confirms the Ferguson effect, while also showing how clueless the media are about crime and policing.

The Brennan researchers gathered homicide data from 25 of the nation’s 30 largest cities for the period Jan. 1, 2015, to Oct. 1, 2015. (Not included were San Francisco, Indianapolis, Columbus, El Paso and Nashville.) The researchers then tried to estimate what 2015’s full-year homicide numbers for those 25 cities would be, based on the extent to which homicides were up from January to October this year compared with the similar period in 2014.

The resulting projected increase for homicides in 2015 in those 25 cities is 11%. (By point of comparison, the FiveThirtyEight data blog looked at the 60 largest cities and found a 16% increase in homicides by September 2015.) An 11% one-year increase in any crime category is massive; an equivalent decrease in homicides would be greeted with high-fives by politicians and police chiefs. Yet the media have tried to repackage that 11% homicide increase as trivial.

Several strategies are employed to play down the jump in homicides. The simplest is to hide the actual figure. An Atlantic magazine article in November, “Debunking the Ferguson Effect,” reports: “Based on their data, the Brennan Center projects that homicides will rise slightly overall from 2014 to 2015.” A reader could be forgiven for thinking that “slightly” means an increase of, say, 2%. Nothing in the Atlantic write-up disabuses the reader of that mistaken impression. The website Vox, declaring the crime increase “bunk,” is similarly discreet about the actual homicide rate, leaving it to the reader’s imagination. Crime & Justice News, published by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, coyly admits that “murder is up moderately in some places” without disclosing what that “moderate” increase may be.

A second strategy for brushing off the homicide surge is to contextualize it over a long period. Because homicides haven’t returned to their appalling early 1990s or early 2000s levels, the current crime increase is insignificant, the Brennan Center and its media supporters suggest, echoing an argument that arose immediately after I first documented the Ferguson effect nationally.

“Today’s murder rates are still at all-time historic lows,” write the Brennan researchers. “In 1990 there were 29.3 murders per 100,000 residents in these cities. In 2000, there were 13.8 murders per 100,000. Now, there are 9.9 murders per 100,000 residents. Averaged across the cities, we find that while Americans in urban areas have experienced more murders this year than last year, they are safer than they were five years ago and much safer than they were 25 years ago.”

The Atlantic is similarly reassuring about today’s homicide rate: “The relative uptick”—which, again, the magazine never specifies—“is still small compared with the massive two-decade drop that preceded it.” True enough, though irrelevant—good policing over the past two decades produced an extraordinary 50% drop in crime. America isn’t going to give all that back in one year. The relevant question: What is the current trend? If this year’s homicide and shooting outbreak continues, those 1990s violent crime levels will return sooner than anyone could have imagined.

The most desperate tactic for discounting the homicide increase is to disaggregate the average. “Fears of ‘a new nationwide crime wave’ are premature at best and wildly misleading at worst,” asserts the Atlantic, because the “numbers make clear that violent crime is up in some major U.S. cities and down in others.”

But such variance is inherent in any average. If there weren’t variation across the members of a set, no average would be needed. Any national crime increase or decrease will have counterexamples of the dominant trend within it, yet policy makers and analysts rightly find the average meaningful. The Ferguson effect’s existence does not require that every city experience depolicing and a resulting crime increase. Enough cities—in particular, those with significant black populations and where antipolice agitation has been most strident—are experiencing murder increases that cannot be ignored.

Baltimore’s per capita homicide rate, for example, is now the highest in its history, according to the Baltimore Sun: 54 homicides per 100,000 residents, beating its 1993 rate of 48.8 per 100,000 residents. Shootings in Cincinnati, lethal and not, were up 30% by mid-September 2015 compared with the same period in 2014. Homicides in St. Louis were up 60% by the end of August. In Los Angeles, the police department reports that violent crime has increased 20% as of Dec. 5; there were 16% more shooting victims in the city, while arrests were down 9.5%. Shooting incidents in Chicago are up 17% through Dec. 13.

The Brennan Center report also tries to underplay the homicide increase by folding it into crime overall. The report projects that in 19 cities the 2015 average for all seven of the FBI’s index crimes—murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and car theft—will be 1.5% less than in 2014. The FBI’s crime index is dominated by property crimes, which outnumber offenses committed against persons by a magnitude of nearly 8 to 1. The Ferguson effect is about violent crime, not theft. Proactive police stops and low-level misdemeanor enforcement deter young men from carrying guns, thus heading off violent felonies before they can erupt.

Career burglars are less affected by whether a cop is likely to get out of his car and question someone hitching up his waistband on a known drug corner at 1 a.m. If property crimes haven’t increased as much as homicides, that’s good news for homeowners but no disproof of depolicing’s role in the violent-crime spike.

To the Brennan Center and its cheerleaders, the nation’s law-enforcement officials are in the grip of a delusion that prevents them from seeing the halcyon crime picture before their eyes. For the past several months, police chiefs have been sounding the alarm about rising violent crime. In August the Major Cities Chiefs Association convened an emergency session to discuss the homicide and shooting surge. “We have not seen what we’re seeing right now in decades,” Washington, D.C., Police Chief Cathy Lanier said after the summit.

In early October U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch brought together more than 100 mayors, police leaders and federal prosecutors to strategize privately over the violent-crime increase. According to the Washington Post, attendees broke out in applause when mayors attributed the increase to officers’ sinking morale.

Later in October FBI Director James Comey said in a speech: “Most of America’s 50 largest cities have seen an increase in homicides and shootings this year, and many of them have seen a huge increase.” He noted “a chill wind blowing through American law enforcement over the last year,” and called it “deeply disturbing.” The next month the acting chief of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Chuck Rosenberg, seconded Mr. Comey’s crime analysis and his hypothesis that the demonization of the police was likely responsible for the violent-crime increase.

President Obama wasn’t happy with his FBI director. In a speech on Oct. 27 to a gathering of international police chiefs in Chicago, he accused Mr. Comey of “cherry-picking data” and ignoring “the facts” on crime in pursuit of a “political agenda.” When the DEA’s Mr. Rosenberg endorsed Mr. Comey’s views about the Ferguson effect, the White House lashed out again: Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Mr. Rosenberg had “no evidence” for his assertions.

Critics of the Ferguson-effect analysis ignore or deny the animosity that the police now face in urban areas, brushing off rampant resistance to lawful police authority as mere “peaceful protest.” A black police officer in Los Angeles tells me: “Several years ago I could use a reasonable and justified amount of force and not be cursed and jeered at. Now our officers are getting surrounded every time they put handcuffs on someone. The spirit and the rhetoric of this flawed movement is causing more confrontations with police and closing the door on the gains in communication we had made before it began.”

St. Louis Alderman Jeffrey Boyd, at a news conference in July after his nephew was slain, made a poignant plea: “We march every time the police shoot and kill somebody. But we’re not marching when we’re killing each other in the streets. Let’s march for that.”

The St. Louis area includes Ferguson, the site of the police shooting that was so utterly distorted by protesters and the media. The Justice Department later determined that the officer’s use of force was justified, but the damage to the social fabric had already been done. Now cops making arrests in urban areas are routinely surrounded by bystanders, who swear at them and interfere with the arrests. The media and many politicians decry as racist law-enforcement tools like pedestrian stops and broken-windows policing—the proven method of stopping major crimes by going after minor ones. Under such conditions, it isn’t just understandable that the police would back off; it is also presumably what the activists and the media critics would want. The puzzle is why these progressives are so intent on denying that such depolicing is occurring and that it is affecting public safety.

The answer lies in the enduring commitment of antipolice progressives to the “root causes” theory of crime. The Brennan Center study closes by hypothesizing that lower incomes, higher poverty rates, falling populations and high unemployment are driving the rising murder rates in Baltimore, Detroit, Milwaukee, New Orleans and St. Louis. But those aspects of urban life haven’t dramatically worsened over the past year and a half. What has changed is the climate for law enforcement.

‘Proactive policing is what keeps our streets safe,” Chief William Bryson, chairman of the Delaware Police Chiefs Council, tells me. “Officers will not hesitate to go into a situation that is obviously dangerous, but because of recent pronouncements about racism, they are not so likely to make a discretionary stop of a minority when yesterday they would have.”

To acknowledge the Ferguson effect would be tantamount to acknowledging that police matter, especially when the family and other informal social controls break down. Trillions of dollars of welfare spending over the past 50 years failed to protect inner-city residents from rising predation. Only the policing revolution of the 1990s succeeded in curbing urban violence, saving thousands of lives. As the data show, that achievement is now in jeopardy.

Ms. Mac Donald is the Thomas W. Smith fellow at the Manhattan Institute. This op-ed was adapted from the forthcoming winter issue of City Journal, where she is a contributing editor.

http://www.wsj.com/articles/trying-to-hide-the-rise-of-violent-crime-1451066997

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Cops are doing their Job.

Probably not “news worthy enough”.
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Day in and day out, the great majority of cops do their job the right way.
April 19, 2015 5:17 p.m.

From host Bob Schieffer’s weekly commentary for CBS ’s “Face the Nation,” April 19:

The best training to be a reporter or anything else is to work the police beat, because every story you cover is the worst moment in someone’s life. If you can learn to get the right information under those circumstances, you won’t be fazed by the high and mighty and certainly not by the on-the-make politicians and spin doctors.

Which is why I want to add a paragraph or two to the rash of stories lately about cops gone wrong. This is not about them. This about all the cops you don’t read about. They deal much of the time with the dregs of our society. The schemers, the murderers, those who prey on the weak. And most of the time, the police deal with them humanely, and as they should.

What we overlook is just how difficult that can be sometimes. It’s not easy to remain passive when a child-beater looks you in the eye and tells you—you have to understand, the kid was keeping him awake. It takes a lot of professional training and strong character not to respond in anger. I know, because I spent my early years listening to some of these awful people. Sometimes I wanted to hit them myself. I didn’t, but it helped me understand how hard it is to do a cop’s job right. As hard as it is, the great majority of our cops still do just that.

Notable & Quotable: Bob Schieffer – WSJ.

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