Articles Tagged with chicago police

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

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Last month, African American teenager Paul O’Neal was killed when a Chicago police officer shot him in the back during a controversial arrest. This shooting has outraged the African American community in Chicago and has worsened the already strained relationship between the police and the community. In fact, Fox News reports that three Chicago gangs are plotting to shoot police officers in retaliation. Apparently the Chicago Police Department (CPD) alerted its officers last week that three local gangs, the Vice Lords, the Black Disciples, and the Four Corner Hustlers, met in order to exchange guns and discuss plans to shoot CDP officers.  

Penalties for Killing, Harming, or Intimidating a Police Officer

Under federal law 18 U.S.C. § 1121, it is a capital offense to intentionally kill a state or local law enforcement officer or employee, who is working with federal law enforcement officials during a criminal investigation,:

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The Chicago Police Department (CPD) has a list of Chicagoans who are believed to be at risk of either killing or being killed. The police started compiling their Strategic Subject List three years ago in an attempt to save the lives of everyone listed, reports the Chicago Tribune. One by one, individuals on the strategic subject list are visited during a proactive well-being check. These checks, known as “custom notifications,” do not involve arrests but instead conversations and warnings. Officers warn listed individuals that they have been identified as being at risk for killing or being killed and that there are alternatives for safer lifestyles available to them. Depending on the circumstances, officers sometimes bring community activists or religious leaders with them during these well-being checks.

What Factors are Used to Generate Chicago’s Strategic Subject List?

The police have not precisely explained the factors that are being used to identify at-risk individuals for their Strategic Subject List. However, the department did tell the Chicago Tribune that they are focusing on the 1,400 individuals who are considered to be most at risk and that a person’s criminal record, age at first arrest, and whether the person has been previously shot are all taken into account. Some civil rights organization leaders in Chicago are concerned that the CPD is not telling the public which factors are being used to create the Strategic Subject List and worry that this lack of transparency may be masking racial profiling. The Police Department says that they will not release the precise combination of factors that are being used as doing so would undermine the program’s effectiveness.

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Last month an African-American teenager was fatally shot by the Chicago police at the conclusion of a car chase. An article on WMUR.com reports that the police attempted to pull over the 18-year-old as the Jaguar convertible that he was driving had been reported stolen. The teen refused to pull over, led the police on a chase through the South Side of Chicago, hit a police cruiser and a parked car, and eventually two police officers opened fire on him. The teenager died from his injuries and his family has since filed a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging wrongful death and excessive force.

The news is highlighting this shooting as the latest event in a string of violent confrontations between African-American communities and police officers in Chicago. Unfortunately, there have been several police incidents lately during which members of the community claim police officers used excessive force. Chicago’s Police Department is attempting to foster trust between officers and community members by arming their police officers with body cameras. The idea is that the cameras will record police interactions with civilians in order to provide evidence in case any misconduct occurs. However, police body cameras can only serve their intended purpose if they are turned on and functioning properly, which is not always the case. During the police shooting described above, the body camera of the officer who fatally shot the teen failed to record during the shooting. The police department reports that they are currently in a body camera pilot program and that officers received their cameras approximately eight to 10 days before the shooting. At this time it is not clear why the officer’s body camera was not recording at the time of the shooting.

Body Camera Laws in Illinois