Gorner Really Worried About Police Morale

For some reason unknown to me Jeremy Gorner seems really worried about the morale of the rank and file Chicago Police officer. On Friday he published his latest article on the topic titled “Police: Morale still low, emboldening criminals and contributing to violence”. The only thing that is really clear in the article is neither Gorner nor anyone interviewed for the articles has any clue what caused the spike in shootings and homicides this year. If you don’t mind a reading about a bunch of officers complaining they are being surveilled too strongly and that very surveillance in turn makes them feel bad and when they feel bad they cannot do their jobs, then this article is for you.

The biggest problem facing journalists when they cover crime and violence is their incredible thirst to find a definitive cause for single year variances that nobody can definitively tie to a cause. We simply have no idea why shootings and murders have jumped this year and we will probably not know for years. Why? Because there are so many different factors at play it would take significant amount of empirical research to really drill down and identify causes. This reality has never stopped the Chicago media from printing opinions about the causes, especially when those opinions come from cops. Why average street cops are more qualified to guess then regular community members has always befuddled me.

Let’s take a look Gorner’s piece:

“Even as he grew older, his enthusiasm was unwavering. He prided himself on continuing to work in some of Chicago’s most dangerous neighborhoods, figuring that’s where he could make the most difference.

Now, though, with about 20 years in uniform, he wants out, fed up with how dramatically his work life has been upended in the months since the release of the video showing an officer shoot Laquan McDonald 16 times. Like many others he works with, this cop believes his proactive style of policing has become a relic of the past because of real fears over lawsuits, firings, even indictments.

He and other officers interviewed by the Tribune say the anti-police furor that erupted over the vivid footage continues to sink morale, hamstring officers and embolden the criminal element, contributing to a shocking jump in violence this year to levels unseen in Chicago since the late 1990s.”

This quote clearly identifies the biases of the police rank and file and demonstrates the cultural problems within the department and how they are unchanged since pre-McDonald era. This cop is not pissed at the misconduct of the officers in the video and how those officers have contributed to poisoning the relationship between the police and community. He is not pissed that a fellow officer murdered a teenager in cold blood. He is not pissed that maybe ten officers on the scene covered up the incident rather than report the murder to their superiors. He pissed at the reaction of the community to the video. He is pissed the video was released. He is pissed that he can no longer continue to police in an unconstitutional way and then not be held accountable for his actions. This quote is evidence of an officer we don’t want on the force his retirement can only improve the Department. If this is representative of how a significant number of cops feel, then we have much farther to go to reform the Department then anyone thinks.

 


I think there are serious problems with articles that have journalists talking to a small number of officers and then using that small data set as if it is representative of what all officers are thinking. That is one of the problems that distinguishes journalism from research.


 

“The bad element knows that policemen aren’t willing to do the job the way they did it (before),” said the veteran cop, a supervisor who’s getting his resume in order and like the others asked not to be named because he wasn’t authorized by the department to speak. “They’re right in tune with how police are policing.”

Once again what in the hell were they doing in the pre-McDonald era that they aren’t doing now? Jeremy, you are allowed to ask follow-up questions. I would bet that Gorner knows that answer is going to be unanswered because it would reveal that officers where routinely violating suspects’ constitutional rights. His job is to ask the question anyways but he hasn’t yet and he never will. It is simple a case that Gorner like the rest of the Chicago media believes that cops should be allowed to do whatever they need to do to get the job done. You can read more of my thoughts on this interview I did with the Atlantic.

“Two key measures of police activity appear to back up concerns that cops have pulled back on their aggressiveness. While arrests have generally been on the decline in recent years, they have dropped sharply so far in 2016, to 72,069 through Oct. 20, a 24 percent decline from 95,213 a year earlier and the fewest in at least five years, according to department records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. Even worse, the records show, street stops over that same period have plunged to 91,438, down 82 percent from 513,161 a year earlier — though a longer, time-consuming form that officers must fill out for each stop has played a significant part in the drop.”

Jeremy, might the decline in stops be due to the fact that the new form required by the ACLU actually allows the constitutionality of the stops to be tracked more easily? That is possible, right? Could it be that a vast majority of the stops were illegal in previous years? Could it be that officers don’t like having their actions tracked and then being held accountable for unconstitutional stops? If we were in court I would object due to facts not being in evidence. You seem to make a huge assumption that the reduction in stops are due to more paper work and completely ignore that it officers might be that the vast majority of the tops could have been illegal.

Here are 3 quick facts from the 2015 ACLU Illinois study of what they call “Stop & Frisk in Chicago

  • Although are required to write down the reason for stops, in nearly half of the stops we reviewed, officers either gave an unlawful reason for the stop or failed to provide enough information to justify the stop.
  • Stop and frisk is disproportionately concentrated in the black community. Black Chicagoans were subjected to 72% of all stops, yet constitute just 32% of the city’s population. And, even in majority white police districts, minorities were stopped disproportionately to the number of minority people living in those districts.
  • Chicago stops a shocking number of people. Last summer, there were more than 250,000 stops that did not lead to an arrest. Comparing stops to population, Chicagoans were stopped more than four times as often as New Yorkers at the height of New York City’s stop and frisk practice.

 

In addition, department records show an uptick in the number of officers leaving the force this year. By early October, 465 officers retired or quit this year, already more than in all of 2015 as well as in each of the two previous years. Department and union officials largely attribute the increased departures, though, to older officers retiring before a key health insurance benefit expires with the next police contract in June.

Twice in this article the idea that officers are retiring at a faster pace in the last year is due to the morale of the Department is shot down. It did not stop Gorner from throwing it in to muddy the waters. Jeremy, this should have never been included in the article. You want to push the point that officers are leaving because of the atmosphere even through you know it isn’t why.

“Loss of control and autonomy in the workplace has long been associated with lowered morale,” said Arthur Lurigio, a professor of psychology and criminal justice at Loyola University Chicago. “Fewer street stops lead to fewer arrests and decrease the visible presence of police in neighborhoods, which leaves a vacuum in authority that can embolden would-be criminals and gang members.”

I like Art but like everyone else he has no clue why violence shot up this year. This is a clear example that Gorner went quote shopping and found what he was looking for. Lurigio gave vague answers and Gorner used it to imply that Lurigio is saying the reduction in stops in Chicago are contributing to increases in violence in Chicago. Clearly this has ethical issues all of it.

Officers of different ranks — from patrol officers to high-level supervisors — had a consistent message: that the heightened scrutiny that has taken hold since the release of the McDonald video last November continues to make their job difficult. They have grown frustrated, worried that their interactions with uncooperative suspects will be video-recorded, posted online and misunderstood. They fear an unfounded citizen complaint could cause their firing or other harsh punishment.

Yes, officers should be increased worries that their misconduct is going to cause them to lose their jobs. Since the old accountability system was completely broken a new one can only be better at holding brutal officers accountable for their actions. Now, show me a single example where an officer has lost his job for misconduct and didn’t actually deserve to be fired. Then I will engage this discussion. Until that time this is nothing more than sour grapes of officers complaining that there might be real accountability for officer misconduct.

“Unfortunately, it’s more reactionary than proactive,” one patrol officer who primarily patrols parts of the North Side said of police work. “… You have to wait for the crime to be committed.

What does proactive mean Jeremy?

Dennis Rosenbaum, a criminology professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said it has become increasingly difficult for police to be proactive on the street amid so much criticism.

“It’s much easier to stay below the radar, respond to calls, engage in what we call reactive policing,” said Rosenbaum, who has worked with Chicago police officials on research projects. “For an individual officer on the street, they need to know that somebody has their back and if they feel that they’re going to get thrown under the bus when they do something, why would you proactively get out of your car or stop a group of kids who … seem to be up to no good?”

First off, Rosenbaum is no longer with UIC as he retired over the summer. Secondly has always been through of as too close to police to be objective. Never has a met a more politically controlling academic in my life. He did whatever he could to stop any criticism of the Chicago Police Department coming out of his Department at UIC, now named the Department of Criminology, Law, & Justice. I am a Ph.D. student in the department currently and know Rosenbaum. He always seemed more worried about maintaining his access to the CPD and their data then he ever did on publishing the truth of his research.

I could go on but I think I have demonstrated the significant problems with this article. There is little doubt that morale took a hit when the take got released; however, it seems like the police are more upset about the reaction from Chicagoans rather than the horrific murder and cover-up that is captured on the video. Gorner clearly thinks despite having no evidence to back it up that cops should be allowed to do whatever they need to do to drive down crime and violence despite how unconstitutional it is. He seems to readily accept the fact that only unconstitutional policing can drive down crime and violence numbers. Of course, he has no evidence to back it up but has no problem quoting people who believe that without ever asking they a follow up question.

We simply have no idea what contributed to crime and violence spikes this year just like we had no idea in 2012. Now if we have a really cold winter it could shut down much of the crime and violence for several months and then 2017 numbers could seriously drop. Of course, the CPD and politicians will claim it is everything they are doing even though they really have no clue and probably played no role in the reductions. Then everything will be back to normal in Chicago.