There is a presumption by the citizens of Chicago that when the Chicago Police arrest an individual and the complainant follows through with their role that charges, prosecution, and hopefully convictions are soon to follow. The reality is this impression is nothing more than an impression and that access to data that could be used to inform the public on this vital question is blocked. When evaluating the performance of any single agency of the criminal justice system it is vital to track how calls for service or individual cases flow into and out of the agency and then continue to proceed through the system.
One flaw of Chicago’s community policing program, Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS), is that it implies to residents that once a case proceeds to prosecution the responsibility for what occurs in the case is no longer that of the Chicago Police Department (CPD) but the responsibility of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and or Cook County Circuit Court. This is not true and in fact the failure to track cases across the breath of the system limits community and policy maker’s ability to evaluate how well either the system as a whole or any agency within it is working. Is it possible to evaluate the work of any one agency in the Chicago / Cook County criminal justice system if data access is blocked by any single agency? No, because the interconnectedness of the agencies within the criminal justice system guarantees that the practices of any one agency will have an impact on how the other agencies operate and vise versa. This interdependent relationship means that when anyone seeks to determine how a single agency is operating they must examine the extent to which the operations of other agencies impact the practices of the agency under evaluation. The ability for policy makers and community members to track an offense from its entry point into the system through its end point in the system is vital for evaluating how our criminal justice system is operating.
- How quickly and accurately the Office of Emergency Management and Communications can relay information from a 911 call to district officers will impact the ability of the CPD to intercede in ongoing violence, collect evidence, and catch the perpetrator.
- The amount and quality of the evidence that the Chicago Police Department brings to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office will impact if charges are brought and/or how successfully cases are prosecuted.
- The quality of the evidence brought to trial by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office will impact the ability of the court to find perpetrators guilty at trial and will impact the sentence the judge is allowed to impose.
- The sentence imposed by judges will impact the length of time the individual is incarcerated, under what type of security, and what requirements are mandated with the individual’s release.
Two Prime Examples:
Burge In the Burge torture saga there was no resistance to the introduction of coerced confessions from either the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office nor the judges of the Cook County Circuit Court. The failure of these agencies to live up to their obligations to be a check on inappropriate police practices validated these practices and fostered their growth instead of putting an end to the practices. Sexual Assault Recently I was the recipient of a rumor: that for every ten arrests the CPD makes for sexual assault (rape) the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office prosecutes approximately one. I then took this rumor to a source of mine that has many years on the CPD and he said “yes, and it was probably less.” I said “approximately” one in ten because the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office does not publish any kind of annual report or release any kind of data about the number of cases brought to it by the CPD for prosecution and the number that actually result in prosecution.
Institutional Goals Intercede:
While ideally every single agency would be operating at its peak performance and making sure their own actions work to benefit the system, this is not how it works in reality. There are two significant obstacles that intercede in the operations within each individual agency and the system as a whole. First, as a bureaucracy each agency has internal goals that mandate that a certain percentage of the agency’s practices are geared toward continuing to grow the agency’s influence and resources despite the real world impact of such practices. Secondly, Chicago and Cook County are mired in 100 years of the most corrupt politics in our country. Each agency operates to some degree in reaction to politics instead of how a criminal justice system ideally should operate.
For the CPD, constant reaction to the fluctuating homicide rates do not allow for long-term strategies to reduce crime in our neighborhoods. The fact that it has been over twenty years since the CPD has realigned beats is proof enough that politics runs the operations of the CPD at the expense of the best interests of our communities in Chicago. For the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office it is the office’s rewarding of prosecutors for conviction rates rather than prosecuting cases that need to be prosecuted. Also, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office continues to disregard their responsibility to be a check on the corrupt practices within certain elements of the CPD. For the Cook County Circuit Court, it is the failure of the judges to be a check on the illegally obtained evidence and perjured testimony from other agencies within the system.