This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight was published February 6, 2016 by American Thinker.
Drown the police in paperwork if they make a street stop, and what do you get? Fewer stops and more violent crime, including a near doubling of the murder rate. At least that seems to be the case in Chicago, where violence has gone viral over the past few weeks.
Plagued with allegations of excessive police shootings, the police department cut a deal last August with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to submit two full pages of information for each stop of a suspect instead of a two-sided, three-by-five-inch “contact card.”
The long form contains at least 50 more boxes to be checked off, including various racial categories, plus several lines each for “narratives” concerning the reason for the stop, whether the suspect was patted down, and “all the reasons that led to the search” if a search “beyond a protective pat down” was conducted.
The aggregate information will be assessed by former U.S. magistrate Judge Arlander Keys, who will determine, among other things, whether the stops show “an impermissible racially disparate impact.”
Apparently, the police on the beat were not thrilled, submitting 79 percent fewer contact forms in January 2016 than in January 2015. Less policing means less safe neighborhoods.
If an officer in a minority neighborhood racks up too many stops of minority suspected offenders, the cop might be inclined to back off to avoid allegations of discrimination. So instead, the “disparate impact” falls on crime victims, most of whom are minorities.
The city racked up 52 murders, making it the “deadliest first month of the year since 2001,” according to the Chicago Sun-Times, which conducted interviews with numerous officers, some of whom pointed a finger at the ACLU-brokered agreement. By way of comparison, Chicago had 28 murders in January 2015 and 20 in 2014.
A couple more telling stats: there were 242 shooting incidents last month, contrasted with January 2015, when there were 119, according to the CPD news affairs officer, Jose Estrada. More than 270 people in Chicago were victims of gun violence last month, contrasted with 133 the year before.
Many cities are reeling from the “Ferguson Effect,” which is a pullback by police fearful of becoming the targets of orchestrated campaigns charging them with “hate,” “racism,” and police brutality.
On August 9, 2014, Darren Wilson, a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, shot and killed black robbery suspect and police assailant Michael Brown, triggering days of rioting. Witnesses whom forensics later discredited claimed that Brown had his hands up as he approached the officer. “Hands up, don’t shoot” became a rallying cry for anti-police protesters even after the officer was exonerated and some of the witnesses were found to have been lying.
In Chicago, protests erupted last November after a police dash-cam video surfaced that showed a police officer shooting and killing 17-year-old Laquan McDonald with 17 bullets, some of them after Laquan was lying on the ground. City officials had kept the video under wraps for more than a year since the Oct. 24, 2014 incident and were forced by a judge to release it. Shortly thereafter, Officer Jason van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder.
Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel has been under fire since by groups seeking his resignation, and the police have been on the defensive as well.
Making sure that police don’t violate basic rights and treat everyone with as much care and courtesy as can be expected in difficult situations is one thing. Discouraging even basic neighborhood policing by quadrupling their paperwork, as the ACLU policy has done, is another.
In Baltimore, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake last April gave police an order to stand down during riots over the death in police custody of Freddie Gray. Discussing the city’s response in keeping protesters safe, she said, “We also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well.” Since then, crime has soared in Baltimore as police have been reluctant to engage. Arrests in Baltimore were down 56 percent in May 2015 compared to the year before.
As the Manhattan Institute’s Heather MacDonald has chronicled, America’s major cities have seen a noticeable drop in police encounters and arrests and a corresponding increase in crime. Following the Ferguson protests in August 2014, police made one third fewer arrests in St. Louis County and city through November 2014. “Not surprisingly, homicides in the city surged 47% by early November and robberies in the county were up 82%,” Ms. MacDonald writes.
“Any cop who uses his gun now has to worry about being indicted and losing his job and family,” a New York City cop told Ms. MacDonald. “Everything has the potential to be recorded. A lot of cops feel that the climate for the next couple of years is going to be nonstop protests.”
How much more crime will it take for protesters to start agitating for more policing, not less? It might annoy the ACLU, but it could make for safer streets.