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Chicago Police Department Task Force Report

April 14, 2016

I got up early this morning to read yesterday’s Police Accountability Task Force report, or at least its Executive Summary, which reports on the Chicago Police Department. It’s really easy to read and chock full of important information and graphics. Here are a few.

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This shows how disproportionately minority and younger Chicago residents are harassed by the police. Note that the total number of stops for young black males is nearly as large as the population of young black males.

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Blacks are disproportionately stopped without cause. Whites are only stopped when the probability of “finding contraband” is much higher.

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There are huge numbers of complaints against officers, probably many fewer than there could be, given the climate.

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At the same time, the police officers usually get away without discipline even when it comes to complaints that are investigated (40% are not even investigated and only 7% are sustained).

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Excerpt from the report.

Finally, I wanted to excerpt from “Other Key Findings” section:


The community’s lack of trust in CPD is justified. There is substantial evidence that people of color— particuarly African-Americans—have had disproportionately negative experiences with the police over an extended period of time. There is also substantial evidence that these experiences continue today through significant disparate impacts associated with the use of force, foot and traffic stops and bias in the police oversight system itself.

CPD is not doing enough to combat racial bias. Policies need further clarification, as it is not clear whether and when officers may use race as a factor when initiating stops. While CPD collects a fair amount of data, little is reported to the public. CPD still has significant work to do to diversify its ranks, especially at supervisory levels. And more needs to be done to train officers to acknowledge and address their biases and deploy officers who are culturally competent and have a proper understanding of the communities they are assigned to serve.

Historically, CPD has relied on the Community Alternative Policing Strategy (“CAPS”) to fulfill its community-policing function. The CAPS brand is significantly damaged after years of neglect. Ultimately, community policing cannot be relegated to a small, underfunded program; it must be treated as a core philosophy infused throughout CPD.

CPD officers are not adequately equipped to engage with youth. The existing relationship between CPD and youth—particularly youth of color—is antagonistic, to say the least. Children in some areas of the City are not only being raised in high-crime environments, but they are also being mistreated by those who have sworn to protect and serve them.

Finally, CPD is not doing enough to protect human and civil rights. Providing arrestees access to counsel is a particular problem. In 2014, only 3 out of every 1,000 arrestees had an attorney at any point while in police custody. In 2015, that number “doubled” to 6. The City’s youth are particularly vulnerable and often lack awareness of their rights.


Chicago’s police accountability system is broken. The system is supposed to hold police officers accountable to the people they serve and protect by identifying potential misconduct, investigating it and, when appropriate, imposing discipline. But at every step of the way, the police oversight system is riddled with legal and practical barriers to accountability.

IPRA is badly broken. Almost since its inception, there have been questions about whether the agency performed its work fairly, competently, with rigor and independence. The answer is no. Cases go uninvestigated, the agency lacks resources and IPRA’s findings raise troubling concerns about whether it is biased in favor of police officers. Up until recently, the agency has been run by former law enforcement, who allowed leadership to reverse findings without creating any record of the changes. IPRA has lost the trust of the community, which it cannot function without.

Imposing discipline on officers guilty of misconduct has also been a challenge. Existing policies and the woefully inadequate oversight regarding how discipline is imposed have allowed far too many officers to receive little or no discipline even after a complaint is sustained. Discipline is not handed down evenly, and there are several layers in the process where discipline is often reduced.

The collective bargaining agreements between the police unions and the City have essentially turned the code of silence into official policy. The CBAs discourage reporting misconduct by requiring affidavits, prohibiting anonymous complaints and requiring that accused officers be given the complainant’s name early in the process. Once a complaint is in the system, the CBAs make it easy for officers to lie if they are so inclined —they can wait 24 hours before providing a statement after a shooting, allowing them to confer with other officers, and they can amend statements after viewing video or audio evidence. In many cases, the CBAs also require the City to ignore or even destroy evidence of misconduct after a certain number of years.

The community has long been shut out of Chicago’s police oversight system. Meaningful engagement with the community—and giving the community power in the oversight system—is critical to ensuring that officers are held accountable for misconduct.

Finally, in the current system, there is no entity to police the police oversight system itself. There is no way to know if existing entities are performing their jobs with rigor and integrity, and no entity is equipped to identify and address systemic changes regarding patterns and practices of misconduct or bias, or to analyze policies and procedures to prevent future problems. Police inspectors general—often called auditors—have emerged nationally in response to a growing belief that traditional oversight agencies would benefit from having a second set of eyes to ensure that they perform as they should.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. April 14, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    So we have a biased report. It’s simple. If you don’t want to stop blacks, stop enforcing the law in black areas. The statistics will improve. Complaints by law abiding black citizens will rise, but nobody looked at that.


    • April 14, 2016 at 12:54 pm

      I think you should read the report, it’s much more nuanced than that. https://chicagopatf.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/PATF_Final_Report_Executive_Summary_4_13_16.pdf

      Liked by 1 person

      • April 16, 2016 at 3:44 pm

        Actually that link doesn’t work, here’s the full report: http://dig.abclocal.go.com/wls/documents/PATF_Final_Report_4_13_16.pdf


        • Guest2
          April 16, 2016 at 9:26 pm

          Yes, the full report goes into much greater detail. The first few pages, Tipping Point are emotionally gripping. In this regard the book by sociologist Randall Collins, Violence (2008), has more than two-dozen refs to police violence in its situational dynamics.

          Deployment is discussed in the report:
          “CPD’s current officer deployment strategies do little to reduce the potential for racially-biased policing.
          Because the deployment system is largely seniority-based, as mandated by collective bargaining
          agreements, younger and less experienced officers are often assigned to high-crime neighborhoods
          and the most difficult watches and beats. Many of these officers are placed in these high-stress
          situations with little to no experience or familiarity with the neighborhoods they will be policing. This is
          a recipe for trouble.” Yet, there is no explicit analysis devoted to this point.


        • Aaron F.
          April 17, 2016 at 4:04 pm

          When you have a moment, could you also update the link at the beginning of the post?


  2. Guest2
    April 14, 2016 at 6:03 pm

    No, David is right. There are no metrics here to reflect deployment — where officers are deployed, and who makes staffing decisions. There are no maps of staffing concentrations in comparison with the other stats here. I’m surprised you didn’t notice what was missing from this report — very incomplete. No history, no stats on ethnicity of officers doing the stops, etc. What other correlations were missed?


    • Guest2
      April 15, 2016 at 7:52 am

      Graphs and charts are rhetorical devices — they are persuasive. The problem with slick graphs and charts of complex social institutions is that they are reductive, they simplify and reduce the complexity to something else, that is visual and easily grasped. This introduces limitations, since the original complexity has been greatly reduced to fit into graphs and charts.

      All statistics are by their very nature reductive, and leave out context. Consumers of statistics have to determine for themselves what has been left out, especially when it comes to neat graphs and charts.


      • April 15, 2016 at 8:07 am

        So, I’m not saying that everything is explained by these charts. But their major point, that the cops have adopted unfair and racist practices, is. And that doesn’t depend on the ethnicity of the officers.


        • Guest2
          April 17, 2016 at 7:14 pm

          Correct — see for example the police depicted in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boyz_n_the_Hood. But I see the violence and trauma as the larger context here (as does the movie) — a student of mine attended high school in Chicago, and while on the bus to school, witnessed a murder. She was still traumatized, years later.

          Certainly race plays a role, but race itself is constructed locally, situation by situation. It is never a dependent variable without such construction; yet, when the report does reference race, the means of its construction are hidden. This is a major failing. Race is a social construct, and when we are ignorant of how it is constructed, then we lack the means to address how that construction takes place, or how power is unequally distributed.

          This disproportionate distribution of power is emphasized throughout the full report — and is, ironically, the key tenet of community organizing as described by Saul Alinsky. I was lucky enough to be trained by his successor, so I am especially sensitive to this issue, and its role in the report.


  3. Auros
    April 14, 2016 at 8:05 pm

    “This shows how disproportionately minority and younger Chicago residents are harassed by the police.”

    I think, to be rigorously fair, you have to consider that it’s almost certainly true that young men do more things that are worth stopping them for. I’d be really interested to look at the relationships between the number of stops and whether the stop was in some sense justified (like, the person stopped was speeding or running a stop sign vs the cop just arbitrarily thought they were “suspicious”), and the relationship between stops and deployment. (Which could represent racist _policy choices_ at a higher level, or could represent an unfortunate reality that there are more crimes to catch in areas that are heavily minority. Or both!)

    I think, in any case, it’s clearly true that cops’ gut feelings / suspicions have an unjustified racial edge, especially when it comes to war-on-drugs stuff. (Whites both deal and use drugs at more or less the same rates, but minorities get caught and punished at much higher rates.) There are stacks and stacks of data beyond this report to support that idea.


    • Auros
      April 14, 2016 at 8:06 pm

      (And of course the next chart, on vehicle _searches_, reflects exactly the kind of thing I was talking about…)


  4. April 14, 2016 at 9:21 pm

    I can’t find a reference at the moment but I recall reading that ca. 100 years ago the Chicago PD had torture problem; specifically, that they’d hired a significant number of veterans of the Philippine-American War and that some of the more barbaric tactics which were used on the Phillippinos got applied to suspects or others the CPD considered undesirable.* Again, I can’t find a ref so maybe I remember incorrectly but the takeaway was that the Chicago PD has a long unhappy history of treating Chicago citizens poorly.

    * More recently there’s this – http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/feb/24/chicago-police-detain-americans-black-site


  5. April 14, 2016 at 9:53 pm

    A task force of 5 Blacks, 1 Hispanic and 3 white liberals managed to do exactly what Mayor Rahm Emanuel wanted them to do. Nuance? More like bias. Blacks are 32.4% of Chicago, but are overrepresented on the Task Force. Been to Chicago many times. Love the city. But I avoid certain neighborhoods because I value my life. The stats reflect that.


  6. DS
    April 15, 2016 at 10:58 pm

    I think as a mathematically minded person, Mathbabe should agree there is a glaringly missing graph. The role of the police is to minimize crime. The city is evenly split among the races. If crime were also evenly divided among the races, the statistics in the report would absolutely be damning. On the other extreme, if crime were 100% committed by one race, then the police should only ever stop that one race. If the crime distribution is somewhere in the middle, then you should expect that the optimal stop-and-search strategy (for minimizing crime) to also be unequally distributed, i.e. “unfair”. If so, making if “fairer” would make it less efficient, and result in increased crime.

    I’d be interested in reading a simplified mathematical model (e.g. about an island with two tribes or something), with a calculation of optimal distribution of police efforts.

    E.g. each person has a score of “suspiciousness” (visible), which is correlated with “chance of possessing contraband” (checkable with a search), which is correlated with “chance of committing serious crime”. But if the chances are different for two visibly different groups of people, what should the optimal police tactic be, in terms of deciding to check for contraband based on the group and the suspiciousness score?


    • April 19, 2016 at 7:43 am

      Please take a look at today’s post about using data analysis to make policing less racist.


  7. Kevin
    April 16, 2016 at 3:25 pm

    “This shows how disproportionately minority and younger Chicago residents are harassed by the police.”

    No, it appears to show the proportion of different age and ethnic groups which are stopped by the police.

    You cannot simply look at a chart and determine “disproportionately”. You need further analysis to prove your assertion.

    And you certainly cannot look at that chart and determine the level of harassment.

    So that chart shows some interesting data, which raises further questions, which need to be asked and answered in a rigorous manner. Perhaps the report does that. But if it did, or you did the work on your own, you did your readers a disservice by not walking them through your analysis and the work required to reach such conclusions.

    You have a real opportunity to help people and build coalitions around issues, but only if you use your mathematical background to rigorously examine the issues at hand – including pointing out when the data do not support your hypothesis or are inconclusive.

    But it will mean you have to look at situations as a scientist and not an advocate. It will mean you must be much more circumspect in the words you use.

    Only you know whether you have it in you to do that.


    • April 16, 2016 at 3:50 pm

      OK a few things.

      First, it’s already “disproportionate” because of the number of stops of young black men. That’s just a way of describing the graph.

      Second, I don’t think you can read the report (full version here: http://dig.abclocal.go.com/wls/documents/PATF_Final_Report_4_13_16.pdf) without understanding the historical and cultural context that made it.

      Third, I think people who haven’t spent much time thinking about racist police practices understand just how much of the crime events are actually better described as “discovered crime events.” That is to say, they are arrests that would not have been called in, or reported, so they only happen because the cops are already out there stopping and frisking people. Resisting arrest, having a small amount of drugs, or peeing on the sidewalk. That stuff doesn’t happen to people who aren’t being stopped by cops or in neighborhoods where people have access to toilets. It’s a secondary effect of broken windows policy combined with our lack of empathy for poor people.

      Which is to say, even if you tell me “blacks are stopped and frisked more because they commit more crimes,” I’ll just point out it’s a circular argument: police create crimes by dint of over-policing black neighborhoods.

      Here’s the data that’s actually missing, and which almost nobody goes to the trouble of understanding. Which crimes are reported, and which crime is “discovered”? And what are the corresponding crime rates in various neighborhoods? And what is the best way to prevent such crimes? And how do you do that without creating a new feedback loop of discovered crimes?


      • Guest2
        April 16, 2016 at 9:51 pm

        The full report shifts the focus, I think, from a simple causal dependency (“racism”) to more complex findings and remedies. The section of police exacerbating trauma — given the high levels of violence already experienced by communities — through open show of firearms, and use of force, was especially illuminating. Comparisons with how other large cities deal with their homeless and mentally ill populations also shifts away from racism. So do most of the proposed organizational changes.

        In fact, there are no neat graphs and charts for these more nuanced issues and reform proposals — I feel the graphs and charts initially mislead me, because they did not depict the more salient need for reform that the full report discussed.

        A city under-siege, like Chicago, it is a war zone. Violence, and tragic loss of life, are what need to be addressed. Undoubtedly, racism is a part of this violence, but even without the racism, the violence and use of force would remain at unacceptable levels.

        I hope Chicago can heal itself, because that’s what needs to happen.


  8. Bas
    April 17, 2016 at 8:19 am

    The Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that there is no constitutional duty to protect, and police will tell you that. The “serve” part, well, who they are serving is debatable these days.


    “The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the police did not have a constitutional duty to protect a person from harm, even a woman who had obtained a court-issued protective order against a violent husband making an arrest mandatory for a violation.”

    And, no surprise, Scalia wrote the decision. Good riddance.


    • Guest2
      April 17, 2016 at 7:37 pm

      From the article: Although the protective order did mandate an arrest, or an arrest warrant, in so many words, Justice Scalia said, “a well-established tradition of police discretion has long coexisted with apparently mandatory arrest statutes.”

      Comment: This is the same police discretion that is the subject of scrutiny in the Chicago report. Apparently, proposed reforms seek to transform Chicago’s “well-established tradition of police discretion,” going back 100 years.

      But Justices Stevens and Ginsburg, in their dissenting opinion, said “it is clear that the elimination of police discretion was integral to Colorado and its fellow states’ solution to the problem of underenforcement in domestic violence cases.” Colorado was one of two dozen states that, in response to increased attention to the problem of domestic violence during the 1990’s, made arrest mandatory for violating protective orders.

      “The court fails to come to terms with the wave of domestic violence statutes that provides the crucial context for understanding Colorado’s law,” the dissenting justices said.

      Comment: Again, violence and brutality are the focus in the Chicago report, as well as the use of police to intervene domestically. The report suggests plausible alternatives at earlier stages.
      Attempting to frame the bereaved mother’s complaint in terms of process, we learn that court orders and statutory law doesn’t accomplish what it was designed to accomplish.


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