Last night, 60 Minutes had a segment called “Crisis in Chicago.” The crisis is real – in the last year, more than 700 people murdered, 4000 shot. As 60 Minutes correspondent Bill Whitaker pointed out, “That’s more than Los Angeles and New York combined.”
What has happened is also clear: “There’s been a drop in the kind of police work that law enforcement says is critical to preventing crime. Usually stops and arrests go up when violence is rising. So we went to Chicago to look for an explanation. What we found was a police department on its heels as the city suffered its worst bloodshed in 18 years.”
Here is the problem: “In August of 2015, cops stopped and questioned 49,257 people. A year later those stops dropped to 8,859, down 80 percent. At the same time arrests were off by a third, from just over 10,000 to 6,900.”
What comes next is excuses for police not doing their jobs. And apparently neither the political establishment or the police leadership can make them do so.
60 Minutes interviewed Brian Warner, a former Chicago cop who was shot in 2011. According to Bill Whitaker, “Now Warner counsels officers suffering from extreme stress. He explained what a dozen beat cops told us off-camera: they had stepped back.”
Mr. Warner explained, “You have a 911 call, you go to your 911 call. But if you’re one– aggressive patrol when you’re out looking for people breaking the law. That’s not happening as much as it was.”
Garry McCarthy, Chicago’s former police superintendent explained, “The police activity is horrific. Honestly. And there, and there’s not an excuse that could be made in my book.” He added, “When you have activity falling off the way it is and crime skyrocketing, that’s a huge problem.”
Mr. Whitaker explains, “This crisis inside the police department began in 2014 with the shooting of Laquan McDonald. He was 17 years old. Police reported McDonald was breaking into vehicles and ignored their commands when they said he lunged at one of them with a knife. But dashboard video appears to show McDonald was moving away when he was shot 16 times by a white officer.”
As we have reported, when Garry McCarthy saw the video, he turned it over to the independent city agency that reviews shootings. But City Hall refused to make the video public, even after it paid McDonald’s family a $5 million settlement.
“When a judge finally ordered the video released a year later, it sparked outrage. Protesters accused the city of a cover-up to protect Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s reelection. The mayor denied it, but promised sweeping changes. His first move was to fire Garry McCarthy,” Mr. Whitaker reported.
Mr. McCarthy explained, “Officers are under attack. That’s how they feel, right. That’s how they feel in this environment, and they’re not going to put themselves and their families in jeopardy.”
Mr. Whitaker reported, “Frustration among cops deepened with a new order to be more selective about who they stopped, and write a two-page detailed report for every one. It was the result of a threat by the American Civil Liberties Union to sue the department for racial profiling.”
A task force added to the “problem” with a searing report that found evidence of racial bias, chronicling that nearly 90 percent of police shootings involved minorities and of course the report concludes, “CPD’s own data gives validity to the widely held belief the police have no regard for the sanctity of life when it comes to people of color.”
They add, “Stopped without justification, verbally and physically abused, and in some instances arrested, and then detained without counsel—that is what we heard about over and over again.”
As Garry McCarthy put it, “The noncompliance of the law is becoming legitimized. And the police are on their heels. They’re on their heels for a number of reasons.” He would add, “We’re reaching a state of lawlessness.”
But at the same time, “stops by police in the neighborhood have dropped by almost 80 percent.”
So the police are basically arguing through their actions that the only way they can do their job is business as usual. And if they can’t continue the policies that were detailed in the task force report, they will do what appears to be a minimal amount of effort – they will respond to a 911 call, but they won’t, as Brian Warner explained, be proactive.
“It’s my job to go to work and listen to your 911 calls and respond. That’s the basic ability of my job. So if you want me to do the basics that’s what I am doing now,” he explained.
But they won’t go further. As Eddie Johnson, the new police superintendent explains, “the main reasons for the drop in police activity were stricter standards for stops and the forms triggered by the ACLU.”
He also said they are becoming more careful: “They are cautious about doing their jobs.”
But Bill Whitaker pressed his question, “You are calling it caution. They’re telling us it’s backing down.”
Eddie Johnson responded, “You know I still go out in the field and I talk to officers too. And they take offense to people referring to them as backing down or not doing their job.”
But Bill Whitaker pointed out, “So the number of stops and arrests are going down dramatically. And the number of people being shot and killed are going up dramatically. There’s got to be a correlation.”
All I see here are excuses from the leadership for the lack of action by the police. They are not doing their job, the murder rates are skyrocketing because of it, but the fault lies with the ACLU and the people complaining about racial profiling and police brutality – or so the excuses game goes.
—David M. Greenwald reporting