Patterns and practices: I think we might have one here?

 The key to oversight of a police agency is being able to identify practices within the agency that reach across the breadth of the agency and result in outcomes that negatively impact both the agency’s mission and the safety of the citizenry.  The agencies in Chicago tasked with oversight of the Chicago Police Department for the last 50 years have been less than effective in indentifying patterns from the plethora of complaints that come every year from citizens against members of the Chicago Police Department.  I think I may have identified one myself.

Jefferson TapOn Tuesday March 23rd both the Chicago Tribune and the Sun Times reported about a fight that involved three unnamed Chicago Police Officers and two men outside a Bucktown restaurant.  The officers remain unidentified both in the limited court records that have been filed with the US District Court in Chicago and the press reports.   But from what we do know, it appears that this incident was quite similar to another incident, too similar in fact to not be part of a larger pattern or practice in some manner.

There is of course nothing new about Chicago Police Officers getting into fights while off or on duty.  But I do believe this incident provides insight into a pattern of behavior within the Department.  What pattern?  A pattern of on duty officers responding to 911 calls about a fight in progress, arriving on scene to find that some of the participants are on or off duty officers, and then leaving the scene in dereliction of their sworn duty.  It is alleged in this complaint that at a minimum the responding officers showed up on the scene, offered no assistance to individuals that were not officers, did not intervene or arrest anyone, and left the scene.  Is it remotely possible that the officers would have arrived on the scene of a fight like this one that did not involve officers and act in the same manner?  If the answer is no, which I believe it is, then “Houston we have a problem”.


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The eerily similar incident involved members of the Area 2 Gun Team and four men at the Jefferson Tap, read about it here.  In this incident a total of 9 officers responded to that scene and did nothing but show up and leave.  Sounds familiar?   You bet.  There really is not any difference between what is alleged to have occurred in this fight and what the responding officers did at the Jefferson Tap in 2006.  This seems to at the very least hint at the fact that there is a pattern of on duty officers responding to 911 calls about fights in progress, only to arrive on the scene and learn that officers are involved, and then leave the scene.  I guess this sends the single to community residents that Chicago Police Officers will only intervene in a violent fight if there are no officers involved.  If you happen to be unlucky and get involved in a fight with officers the last thing you should do is call 911 for help.

Criminal Court Decision: 

On April 29th Judge Thomas V. Gainer, Jr. of the Cook County Criminal Court said in his decision that in the Jefferson Tap criminal prosecution of the four officers that because the responding officers were not ordered to leave the scene there was no obstruction of justice by either the four officers involved in the fight or the responding officer.

This simple interpretation of the officers’ actions allows all the officers involved to benefit from an unwritten but now judicially sanctioned policy of leaving a crime scene if officers are involved.  One has to question whether the officers responding to this latest incident would have done their sworn duty had the officers in the Jefferson Tap fight been sanctioned for leaving the scene?  You can read about this very naïve decision here.

Every year there are thousands of arrests involving Chicago Public School students.  It seems reasonable to assume that a certain percentage of those youth are arrested for their participation in fights.  But when it come to their own fellow officers, the CPD does not apparently believe that fights are something that require the involvement of the criminal justice system; thus, there is a clear difference in the way the Chicago Police Department responds to fights depending on whether a fellow officer is involved or not.

This also seems to be further evidence of the shallowness of the campaign by Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis and Mayor Daley to get community members to come forward with information to identify perpetrators of violence in their community.  Public officials, including the police, lead by example.  Both this latest incident and the Jefferson Tap fight prove that the blue wall of silence is alive and well.  This example is proof that coming forward is not something that the Chicago Police Department will do when it involves members of their department. So why then should community members be expected to do so when it involves individuals from their community?

Tracy has nearly two decades of experience researching and working within criminal justice systems. When Tracy began pursuing a career dedicate to system reform, he found that no single organization existed to promote evidence-based discussions among law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve. Recognizing that citizens in Chicago deserved the right to demand transparency in their criminal justice system, Siska established the Chicago Justice Project. He received his Master of Arts degree in Criminal Justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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