The Great Myth About Policing Plaguing Chicago

The great myth will not allow Chicago to free itself from repeating past mistakes when it comes to responding to crime & violence. The true impact that policing has on these phenomena are very hard to ascertain even by the most skilled researchers in the field. The reality is that police receive far too much blame when crime and violence go up and far too much credit when they go down. Why? Because exploiting crime and violence is politically beneficial to leaders across Chicago from business leaders to politicians. They cannot help but point fingers at others for the crime and violence while completely ignoring the ills of the city that they helped create.

From the early 1990s until about 2015 crime throughout the country dropped rather consistently. Every unethical police leader, police union official, and political leader was absolutely convinced they knew exactly what was causing the decline. Of course, it was some program or policy they were responsible for implementing. This would mean the policies of 19,000 police agencies and countless political leaders somehow were able to drop crime rather consistently all over the country all at the same time despite radical demographic and socio-economic differences across our vast country. This only makes sense to ideological extremists and political hacks. Hence, why the great myth continues to be pushed by these very same people.

During this 25-year period of rather consistent dips in crime and violence there was almost yearly opportunities for the most dishonest officials among us to claim credit despite having no evidence to support their claims. This of course was too great a temptation for police leaders and politicians so every year they paraded in front of the throngs of media to claim credit for the declines.

Unfortunately for the public the dutiful media was all too eager to swallow whole their claims without fact checking them. The failures of the media to fact check these claims gave oxygen to the great myth and allowed it to grow rather than being snuffed out immediately. This led the public in to false beliefs about the true impact of police on crime and violence. Of course, when crime ticks up the public led by political hacks exploiting the crime and violence for their own benefit start beating the drums to hire more cops because they have been repeatedly told by the media that police are the answer. This is what happened in 2016 when Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the hiring of a thousand new officers to the Chicago Police Department. Because of the great myth this move was very politically beneficial to Emanual.

In the next three years crime and violence dropped significantly in Chicago and of course the public was all too quick to believe it was the addition of those new officers to the Chicago Police Department. However, at the very same time Cook County was starting to implement bail reform. A program that has become the latest boogie man to be exploited by political hacks as the cause of Chicago’s problems with crime and violence. But wait, if bail reform starting in late 2016 why didn’t crime and violence skyrocket in the proceeding years if it is the cause of all of Chicago’s problems in 2020 & 2021? Once again this is something only an ideological extremist would believe because it supports their great myth.

Independent empirical research from Loyola University Chicago’s Department on Criminal Justice and Criminology has shown that bail reform is not driving the crime and violence increases Chicago experienced since the pandemic hit. Pro police politicians have used every opportunity to jump in front of any camera they can to make unsubstantiated allegations about what is driving these increases without ever having to back up what they are saying. It is clear that Chicago’s tradition of exploiting the suffering of countless survivors of crime and violence for political gain continues to go strong as long as it serves to support the great myth.

Has Mayor Lightfoot delivered on her reform promises and countless pledges to be the most transparent mayor Chicago has ever seen? Hardly. Is Superintendent Brown the pillar of integrity and driver of innovative policing Chicago desperately needs? Not even close. Would Chicago be better off if they were both replaced with the truly independent leaders Chicago deserves? Maybe. Are they to blame for Chicago’s increases in crime and violence since the pandemic hit? No. On this same note bail reform is also not the cause of Chicago’s crime and violence issues. One way to know this is true is that Mayor Lightfoot and Superintendent Brown cannot stop blaming it without ever being able to produce data to back up their allegations. Soo Chicago of them. Not sure this was the change Chicago was promised.

Chicago is in desperate need of political leaders that will focus on long-term solutions to all that ills our communities rather than looking to create scapegoats of other justice system leaders. To do this we have to address the Chicago’s endemic issues with poverty and confront the great myth head on. This will require a Chicago mayor to give up their corruption bankroll in the form of the Tax Increment Financing program and redirect those taxpayer dollars away from making rich white people even richer and use it to address the roots causes of crime and violence in Chicago. The half measures we have experienced over the last 30 years have done nothing but exacerbate the problems. It is time for the real change Chicago’s communities need.

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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