Sun-Times Endorses CPD’s Propaganda Dashboard

dashboardThe CPD’s Gun Offender dashboard is nothing more than overt propaganda that the Sun-Times Editorial Board, led by editorial page editor Tom McNamee, endorsed. That’s right folks, the Sun-Times didn’t verify the data within the dashboard and hold the CPD accountable for all the data they left out or completely miss-classified but instead they just publicly endorsed the CPD’s efforts.

There is no doubt that right there that is some sound journalism practice. See, it is not like it is the job of journalists to hold government officials to account for their actions. Obviously, just taking their word for it is enough in Chicago. I mean, why would the CPD lie about something? It is not like leaders of the organization have a track record of lying about justice issues for the last 100 years or so. If the Sun-Times editorial board was going to voice such retrograde endorsements was it really in the public’s interests the paper be saved?

I would go through a detail all the problems with the data within the dashboard but a journalist has already done just that. Curtis Black from the Chicago Reporter took the time to do what nobody at the Sun-Times did, including the editorial board, and went through and tried to validate what the CPD is making available through the dashboard. According to Black’s analysis the data is riddled with problems that certainly don’t seem like they are an accident. That is what happens when you let justice agencies put out data and the media doesn’t question it.

One of the big issues regarding this dashboard is the CPD and Mayor’s desire to classify gun possession as a violent crime in Chicago. We will be covering this in an upcoming post.

So, we are left with a few questions.  Why would the Sun-Times author such an editorial? Why didn’t their reporters analyze the dashboard themselves and publish a story about how horrible and manipulated the data is? 

To answer the latter first you can just review an interview I did for the Atlantic. This was about why the Chicago media was not covering the Homan Square story that the Guardian US broke. The same theme applies. Reporters in Chicago have for the most part come to develop a worldview that is in line with the CPD’s view. This is why we have crime reporters and not really police beat reporters. If your job is to cover crime it is very easy to align yourself with the CPD’s views.

As for why the Sun-Times would author such an editorial it is plainly clear that the rich editorial page editors are sick of the summer weekend shooting counts and want something done about it. Now, there are not going to go so far as to call for real change that could impact the crime and violence like maybe killing the city’s $600,000,000 a year TIF program and using that money for true economic development in Chicago’s troubled communities. Instead they decide to travel back in time to the 80s and call for increasing incarceration as the key. Don’t ask them for evidence about why it will work because at their economic status level they are not required to provide any.

Just as a little reminder about why this is such a bad editorial. The Illinois General Assembly back in 2014 took the very progressive step of passing the “Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act”. Essentially this legislation bans the box on job applications where ex-offenders have to check off if they have previous convictions. Yes, in 2014 the Illinois General Assembly took a progressive step towards reducing the harm caused by our criminal justice system and the CPD unilaterally undid that for all the individuals listed in their database. Bravo.

This is definitely evidence of a police agency trying to reform its practices after the report issued by Emanuel’s Police Accountability Task Force, the report by the Civil Rights Division of the United States Justice Department, and the current federal consent decree. Not!

I said it when he was promoted to Superintendent and I will say it again, Eddie Johnson is not going to lead the Chicago Police Department to the reform promised land. He is wholly unqualified to do that. Instead we get the Chicago Police Department weaponizing data to confront justice reforms within the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and the Cook County Criminal Court.

The only way to combat the weaponizing of data is to make all the data public and allow anyone that is interested to challenge the conclusions put forth by justice agencies. Without the requisite transparency justice agencies are going to keep using data against the public and getting editorial boards to endorse their actions. The hell with the truth!

Author: Tracy Siska

Tracy Siska is the Founder and Executive Director of the Chicago Justice Project.

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