The Night Chicago Died

(Part 2 is here.)

A Chicago Boyz reader writes:

Recently, two CPD uniformed officers were shot in the head during a traffic stop.

How did this happen? What happened? The detailed answers to these questions will be unfolded as the post-shooting investigation discovers the facts and assembles them into a narrative that “explains” what happened. As is so often the case, the analysis will focus on the actions of the officers, their failures to act as policy or training requires, and their poor performance even when they were acting as they were supposed to. All such analyses are riddled with hindsight bias, and invariably neglect the forces that now shape the interactions of the CPD with the public. You might ask: “What are you talking about?”

Several years ago, the City of Chicago signed a consent decree with the (Obama) Justice Department. The decree required that an officer formulate articulable suspicion prior to initiating any contact with a member of the public. As part of the decree, officers were and are required to fill out a detailed form every time they initiate such an interaction. Failure to fill out the form completely or accurately carries a risk of sanction. Net effect? Contact with the public went down by 80-90%, as did arrests. It turns out that seasoned police officers can talk people into disclosing a lot of information about criminal activity just by talking to them. A conversation that began with a hunch and without articulable suspicion often ended with probable cause for arrest.

No matter, the drop in arrests has become less important. Why?

Because the IL state’s attorney has been dropping charges from arrests where the evidence falls short of a slam-dunk conviction in court. This is the vast majority of cases. Uniformed police officers know this, and refer to it as a “catch-and-release” program. The perpetrators have lost all respect for the police and fear of being arrested. Many know exactly what they need to be released on “decline to prosecute” (Released Without Charges).

One of the problems with our criminal justice system has been that defendants unable to post bail spent enormous amounts of time in jail waiting for their trials. This is economically devastating to them and any dependents they might have. Concern over the injustice perpetrated on poor defendants has prompted the creation and implementation of a low-bail/no-bail system. Of the small number of people that are actually arrested and charged, many or most alleged offenders are released with little or no bail. First time offenders and the accused-but-innocent benefit enormously from this approach. Habitual offenders simply go out and offend again. Thirty years ago the Cook County Jail was overflowing with people waiting for trial. The conditions they lived in were dismal. In 2021, the population of the jail is a fraction of what it was. The majority of those who would have been in jail 30 years ago are now back on the streets, often offending again. In days past, most of those charged with aggravated assault, attempted murder, and murder would face huge bail or remand to custody without bail. At present, anyone whose charges include “manslaughter” (a lesser charge often included to allow a plea bargain) can get out on no or low bail. Given that charges are brought on only a minority of the murders in Chicago (in the 15-30% range), this is a large percentage of those arrested for murder.

Even before COVID, the Illinois State Penitentiary system was releasing prisoners when they had served about half of their sentences.

The net effect of all of the above has been to increase the number of active and violent criminals in the community.

A second effect of this has been this: CPD officers understand that the vast majority of their efforts to enforce the law and protect the community are futile. Filing reports of crimes has become pointless; absent a need for an insurance claim, many uniformed officers discourage people from doing reporting, because it is simply a waste of everyone’s time.

In recent years the city has often attempted to misrepresent or undercount the crime rate in the city, including its murder rate. One way this was done was to classify some murders as “death investigations.” This has prompted the creation of an independent website that is generally regarded as a more reliable source of data than the official numbers.

The best journalism about Chicago’s criminal justice system is at CWB. While it focuses on a small portion of the city, it is a good window into the reality on the streets. They have also accurately recorded the declining manpower of the CPD over the years. The best murder and shooting data is at Hey Jackass. Finally, the Chicago Contrarian and PJ Media publish articles by Second City Cop and Jack Dunphy, both apparently uniformed officers with an insider’s perspective on modern law enforcement. Links below.

12 thoughts on “The Night Chicago Died”

  1. “One of the problems with our criminal justice system has been that defendants unable to post bail spent enormous amounts of time in jail waiting for their trials.”

    Amendment VI: In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury ….

    But the legal profession makes its profits from slow trials and grinding processes which waste time and run up the billable hours. Lawyers should be prohibited from elective office for a start — then we might have simpler, fairer laws. And there would be much to be said for giving the legal profession the old Roman treatment for an under-performing legion — decimation. Repeated decimation!

    What was that old saying? Justice delayed is justice denied. Just as excessive regulation in the economic sphere is destroying our economy, excessive procedural chaff in the legal system is destroying our justice system and our culture.

  2. The numbers and the delays in trials have led to an abusive system of plea bargains. These are similar to the political prisoners held after the January 6 protests.

  3. the length of pretrial incarceration in cook county is NOT the result of an unprepared prosecutor, it is based on continuances usually requested by and agreed to by the defense.

  4. Contributing to the problem is a habit, not necessarily in Chicago, of overcharging. This has led to pressure for no cash bail and so it goes.

  5. 1) Even though I live and worked in the Mountain West, I am really glad I retired from the job 13 years ago.
    2) It is my understanding that despite prosecutors and politicians blaming everything on the existence of guns, and there being statutes on the books drastically penalizing someone for using a gun in a crime, the Democrats of Chicago do not charge those crimes because it would penalize the criminals they love. The first part of any plea bargain is to drop the firearms enhancement. Which incentivizes the use of firearms. They get more of what they reward.
    3) Something to watch. Police forces develop traditions. Traditions get you through bad times as you stand with your brothers and sisters. Apparently from what I hear, it is the Chicago Police tradition to pipe [bagpipes] their fallen from the hospital to the hearse that takes them to the Medical Examiner’s Office. One of Mayor Lightfoot’s flunkies banned that claiming COVID regulations forbade it. Said regulation is apparently fictional since it was outside. Apparently there are some unhappy campers among line cops in Chicago. Then yesterday, Lightfoot claimed publicly that the piping was not tradition, but rather an attempt to “hijack” the death of the officer.

    You think it is bad in Chicago now. There are going to be a lot fewer Chicago cops I suspect, and the ones who have to remain ain’t gonna do [insert expletives of choice].

    Subotai Bahadur

  6. Asthe old Bolshevik once said, “~ The worser, the better”. Just whgat they need to drive “Team Ghetto” into the surround as the new Illegal Hispanic population moves in to provide the grift income.

    American cities are dying. Population replacement saves the careers of the Corruptocrats as well as the property values of the owners. It worked in Compton, California. There, the “organized” Hispanic gangs drove the Black gang bangers into adjacent ghettos. Violent crime is down in Compton. Business and grift are up. What is not to like?

    Unless, of course, the ghetto gang bangers escape to your neighborhood. Enjoy your neighborhood while you still can. The bloodshed in Chicago, Baltimore, Saint Louis, etc are not a free replacement for ghetto-ball on TV. They are the pre-game warmup for the invasion of your community.

  7. My reaction to Chicago and soon L.A., San Francisco etc is that they are getting what they must have desperately desired. Like the black-out alcoholic and degenerate gambler, the only people that can change things are the people living there. The people of Chicago chose to elect as Mayor someone that makes Biden look like a mental prodigy and Aldermen that make Tony Soprano seem a moral paragon. What did they expect would happen? The state government makes clear that electing Republicans would merely divert the graft somewhere else.

    I also have little sympathy for the Chicago P.D. Their only saving grace was that they mostly kept their corruption within certain bounds that allowed the city to function.

  8. One of the other requirements of the Consent Decree is that all of the police public interaction cards are copied to an ACLU related agency looking for police to charge with misconduct.
    At Second City Cop the commenters often referred to this as a “ghetto lottery” because of the close relationship between several major Democrat donor plaintiffs’ law forms and the Prosecutors’ office, to settle cases, even in amounts which exceed State allowable maximums. EG, LaQuan ? (On drugs, wouldn’t drop the knife, shot a lot), got 2 million over State maximum, just before Rahms’ last election.
    Car chases are banned, foot pursuit requires supervisor approval, theft under $950 is free (misdemeanor and not prosecuted), 4 years served for attemped murder of a police officer, while on both parole and pretrial release with no bond.
    I am surprised that it is not worse.
    John in Indy

  9. Most of the failures in Chicago trace back to the failure of the federal government and the aid that has been directed that way these many years. It wasn’t so much that it was misdirected as simply insufficient to accomplish its purpose while allowing all the various entities to siphon off their rightful share, forcing the city to prioritize between the politicians and the citizens.

    As the MSM perform their ritual pilgrimages among the “survivors” of the Afghan junta throughout the Moslem riviera “investigating” the American “failure” in Afghanistan, expect the same story to emerge. There just wasn’t American money enough for both ammo and all this real estate, servants and cars, so they were forced to prioritize. I’m sure the resurgence of inflation has them regretting every penny wasted on the army.

    All of this just has to be Trump’s fault, don’t you know.

  10. “But the legal profession makes its profits from slow trials and grinding processes which waste time and run up the billable hours.”

    Not in criminal law. Prosecutors don’t get paid that way, and neither do defense lawyers. Criminals by and large aren’t a high-fee-paying group. What you describe only makes sense of there is money to extract from them by the lawyers. There generally isn’t.

    “Lawyers should be prohibited from elective office for a start — then we might have simpler, fairer laws.”

    Statute-writing is a technical game, the competence of which determines if laws are enforceable or if they are so sloppy that judges can have their way with them. With non-legally-trained statute writers, we’d just have confusion until some motivated justice decides what the written mess “really means.” Sloppy statute-writing gives us activist judges.

    “And there would be much to be said for giving the legal profession the old Roman treatment for an under-performing legion — decimation.”

    Sure, take a system that suffers from inefficiency due to a lack of resources and personnel and reduce some of the personnel. That’ll work.

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