Articles Tagged with chicago police

nicolas-barbier-garreau-256433-copy-300x240The Brandon Whitehead case has brought to the forefront the potential for police misconduct in Chicago. The city is already notorious for its violence and gun crime. However, there is an even more disturbing trend where law enforcement agents are actually breaking the law themselves. Because the police are given the power to gather evidence, they can sometimes abuse this power in order to hide their own misconduct.

The courts are also sometimes too willing to listen to everything that the police officers say without questioning whether or not they are true. This means that defendants who have a criminal record may not find it easy to convince the judge and jury that they were the victims of a crime committed by the police. This is not something that is just unique to Chicago. It happens in many other cities across the country. Only the best lawyers are able to overcome these challenges.

Victims of Police Corruption and Violence

spenser-h-194645-copy-300x195There are two separate accountability offices in Chicago – one for judges and one for the police. The aim of putting these offices in place is to ensure that members of the public can make a complaint about a police officer or a judge without fearing that they would face retaliation. Moreover, the judge or police officer also get some protection because they know that the complaint will be carefully investigated and the right action taken to ensure justice. The Kalven case showed the importance of reporting early and accurately when an officer has acted in an illegal manner.

Previously, many members of the public were suffering in silence because they feared that the influential officers they complained about had the power to take actions against them. For example, some worried that their cases would not be heard fairly or that the police would plant evidence on them. There were even examples of police beating up and harassing people who dared to complain about them. All this has changed with the introduction of the two accountability offices and increased public access to the records.

Complaining About the Police

nicolas-barbier-garreau-256433-copy-300x240Police reform in Chicago is not only a matter of public importance for the city’s residents; it also has an impact on other cities and states. If Chicago gets it right, this might turn out to be the blueprint for reform in other places. If it goes wrong, then other states and cities may be reluctant to implement their own police reform initiatives.

At the moment, there is a difference of opinion between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and City Hall. There are many interested parties, including members of the public, the law enforcement agencies, the courts, and even the politicians. The mayor had originally picked a watchdog group to oversee the process, but others think there should be more involvement from various community organizations. A federal judge has been called in to oversee the process. Some see this as a way to avoid working with the Trump Administration and the US Justice Department.

New Convictions and Cases

tim-graf-202490-copy-300x200The 7th circuit appeal court has just considered the case of Joseph Doornbos. This case highlights some of the important things for residents of Chicago to consider when they are stopped and searched. It specifically looks at pat-downs and whether the police have to have reasonable grounds for suspicion before they act.

In this case, the search was done by law enforcement agents that were not in uniform (plain clothes agents). They confronted the suspect and tackled him to the ground as he was leaving a train station. Later on, they charged him with resisting an arrest, but he was acquitted on that charge.

The Issues of the Case

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Any death in custody is a tragedy on a personal level, but it also raises civil rights issues that cannot be ignored. For example, race and class are important predictors of vulnerability of incarcerated individuals. Many of the people that die in custody are poor and ethnic minorities. Whether the police admit it or not, the public perceives systemic abuses that culminate in the violation of people’s basic and fundamental rights. The case of Laquan McDonald is no longer that unique. The typical narrative seems to be that of a white officer shooting an unarmed young black man. Although the law enforcement agencies try to argue that this a reflection of criminal proclivities, the reality is that the disproportion is so great as to cause public disquiet.

In the courts, the judges are primed to believe the law enforcement agencies until and unless there is irrefutable evidence against them. The introduction of the video camera and smart phone has meant that local vigilantes can poke holes into the official story that is provided by the police. Whether this is a positive development is open to debate. The mantra of institutional racism has become a catchall phrase for all the ills and mismanagement that are associated with law enforcement agencies across the board, and not just within the precincts of Chicago.

When the Duty of Care is Not Met

spenser-h-194645-copy-300x195Chicago is a city that has long been criticized for failing on transparency, accountability, and justice issues. Some of these criticisms are not based on fact but are rather like urban myths. They grow and have lives of their own, the facts of the matter being largely inconsequential. The city has adopted a unique approach that takes into consideration the views and perspectives of those who work within the criminal justice system. Hence, there are proposals for a sitting or retired judge to oversee the entire process. This inclusive approach brings the police into the fold rather than treating them as sworn enemies of civil liberties.

Other cities have a somewhat different approach to reform. They consider their own law enforcement agencies to be fundamentally anti-people. Therefore, the reform process is necessarily imposed on them rather than being a natural progression towards organizational development. In this case, the format is that of a public inquiry with all the requisite appearance of interrogations and investigations.

Not surprisingly, some members of the Chicago police forces are not entirely pleased with the latter approach. They believe that they too are part of the reform agenda and desire to provide high-quality services to the citizenry. Even when mistakes are made, they are nothing more than that. It is not a case of corrupt agencies taking away the rights of the people.

tim-graf-202490-copy-300x200Few laws have created the angst that is experienced in the stop-and-search era. The basic premise is that if you come from an ethnic minority, then the chances are that you will be more likely to be stripped and searched than a member of the mainstream community, which is primarily white Caucasian in this context. It is a violation of civil liberties. There are numerous reports of these powers being abused.

The law enforcement agencies may hide behind the notion that they are merely engaging in a consensual process, but consensus can never be achieved if one of the parties to the cause is so much more powerful and influential. The power of arrest and charge is particularly compelling to any would-be suspect when he or she is deciding whether or not to resist the arrest. The law enforcement agencies have attempted to report this as a practical matter of people from ethnic minorities committing more crimes more often than their mainstream white Caucasian counterparts. Other social researchers disagree with this premise because it does not account for the impact of the systemic deprivations with which these ethnic minorities have to contend.

Working Towards a Sustainable Model

zjrupeakpzi-aidan-meyer-300x200There are few issues that are guaranteed to raise legal temperatures higher than that of “justified police shootings.” Issues of outright racism and civil rights have come to the fore as a consequence of this specific issue. The media has played its role in sensational coverage, which often masks the serious legal issues at stake. You only have to read about the Laquan McDonald case to understand some of the complexities involved.

The fact that the law is not very clear gives leeway to all sorts of interpretation. The law enforcement officers have assumed (incorrectly) that the law is designed to cover them at every opportunity. Meanwhile, the courts are left somewhat hopeless by the experience of having to litigate and mediate that which is nearly impossible to handle fairly. The charged atmosphere also means that consideration has to be given to the practicalities of how the verdict will be received.

The Starting Point

3scbuulajgg-matthew-hamilton-300x200It is a nightmare scenario when a defendant is accused of having injured a police officer in the line of duty. Both the courts and probation office are reluctant to give defendants any benefit of doubt or leeway in such circumstances. The message is clear: You mess with public officials and the public will mess with you by way of aggravated sentencing guidelines. Although such cases are a true test of defense skills, it can certainly help to solidify some of the key aspects of criminal defense. Many trainer attorneys might benefit from handling such a case. The key ingredients of the crime are summarized in the provisions of 720 ILCS 5/12-3.05.

Understanding the Crime and its Ingredients

It helps to first understand the general crime of battery and then assess the aggravating features in as far as they relate to the current case. First of all, the defense team must take note of the important technicality that battery for these purposes excludes the discharge of a gun. That is an entirely separate crime with more serious consequences for the defendant if one of the victims was a police officer. In any case, there is a requirement that the defendant knowingly committed the constituent acts which include causing bodily harm or disfigurement. The harm clause also refers to permanent disability.

RIP_Freddie_Gray_flyerSometimes it is hard to tell who is a victim and who is a perpetrator when it comes to intimidation and extortion crimes in Chicago. Defense attorneys have too often found themselves changing their roles in order to effectively prosecute the police department for a series of failings including gross incompetence and outright violations of the defendant’s rights. Some have argued that so called “predictive policing” is nothing more than a ploy to cover up the misdeeds of the law enforcement agencies who harass citizens particularly those from seemingly powerless and marginalized communities.

Woe befall an attorney defending someone on the “Heat List.” Effectively that person is branded a potential gang member based on fuzzy models. An arrest soon follows (sometimes repeatedly) whilst the real criminals continue to roam the streets. Nevertheless, is not too hard to sympathize with the Chicago law enforcement agencies who are faced with an increasing crime rate and the state’s reputation for grand lawlessness. They have to stab at something in the absence of a reliable predictor of criminality. In any case the US Constitution is not particularly supportive of the notion of “Preventative Arrest.” However, in their zeal to protect the public, the Chicago law enforcement agencies have gotten the basics wrong.

The Never-Ending Plight of Minority Communities