Separating facts from fiction

On Tuesday night I appeared on Politics Tonight on CLTV with Pat Camden, spokesman for the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), and Tio Hardeman from Ceasefire.  The topic of discussion was Superintendent McCarthy’s move to redeploy 500 officers from the Targeted Response Unit (TRU) and the Mobile Strike Force (MSF).  This was a real chance for serious discussion to be had about the need for beat realignment to take place instead of the short-term fix offered by the superintendent but instead the same old talking points were repeated by Camden: more officers, more officers, more officers.

Pat CamdenPolice departments throughout the country have been slowly (and some not so slowly) reducing the size of their departments because of the expense, and to some degree the realization that officers do not prevent crime.  This of course does not sit well with the union that represents officers because the responsibility of the union is to build membership, not necessarily do what is best for the city or its citizens.  While I am sure most union officials are doing what they think is best for the city -such as working to keep a large police force on the street – it does not mean they are correct in their assumptions.   In fact, I am pretty convinced that for the most part officers do little more then displace crime, rather than actually prevent crime.

Camden spouted the usual line from the FOP about the need for 2000 more officers and how this redeployment is nothing more than shuffling officers to new units and not necessarily from different parts of the city because both TRU and MSF were spending all their time in high crime areas of the city prior to the redeployment.  On the second point, Camden and I are in agreement; however, on the first point we are as far apart as possible.   I know the department has budgeted for 13,500 officers but I am unaware that there is some study citing that figure as being the optimum number of officers for Chicago.  I am assuming it is the number that the FOP figures they have a right to demand because the budget allows for that many officers.  It would be nice if they could bring some evidence to the argument, but it seems that would be expecting too much from the FOP.

I think the highlight of the show was when Camden attempted (unsuccessfully) to exploit the deaths of 5 officers in 2010 as a reason why there is a need for the city to hire 2000 more officers.  The city certainly should mourn the deaths of the officers, just like we should mourn the death of all our citizens, but we should not use those tragic incidents to support political ends, regardless of whose ends those are.

CPD Officer deaths in 2010:

  • 3 officers are murdered while off duty as a result of robberies gone bad (link, link, link)
  • 1 officer was off duty (in uniform) and shot by a deranged man while in the parking lot of the police station the officer worked in. (link)
  • 1 officer was on duty as an evidence technician who was collecting fingerprints from a car that was broken into when a sociopath gunned him down with a retired officer.   At no time in the city’s recent history (over the last 30 years) has the CPD sent patrol officers to a crime scene like the one we have here with the evidence technician. (link)

Not a single one of these deaths had anything to do with depleted numbers of officers.   To suggest this in a media interview that they did is being dishonest and exploitative, neither of which honors the lives of the individuals.   We need to make sure that these tragedies are not used by anyone for political purposes, including and especially the FOP.

If the CPD is in need of additional officers, then those hires should be withheld until they conduct beat realignment throughout the city and the Department brings forward evidence that their resources are allocated appropriately, taken into consideration violent crime rates and population shifts.  Communities throughout Chicago have little faith that new officers would be deployed to high crime areas, which unfortunately are populated by mostly people of color and have experienced decades of disproportionate allocation of resources from city officials.

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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