Articles Tagged with police misconduct

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

tim-graf-202490-copy-300x200In Chicago, the government has pushed legal help for juveniles involved in murder cases. This means that whenever the police interrogate juveniles, a lawyer should be present. This includes the juveniles who are younger than 15 years of age and are involved in sex or murder offenses. Illinois lawmakers believe that this will diminish the cases of false confessions. This law was proposed only last year. Before, the state only necessitated legal representation for kids younger than 13 years of age in the cases of murder or sex. This was applicable even when the juveniles were not the criminal investigation targets.

Governor Rauner propagated justice for children when he signed SB2370 on August 22, 2016. Public Act 99-0882 came into effect on January 1, 2017. The new bill was sponsored by two Democratic legislators. They said that juveniles aged 14 and 15 years old should certainly get legal protection. The bill included the following stipulations.

  • Videotaping is required by police officials in all the questioning sessions of youth under 18 years of age for any felony, sexual offense, or misdemeanor cases. The court will not permit the confession if it is not recorded on videotape.

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.

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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

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That old saying that “one bad apple spoils the whole bunch” is what may be happening in the communities where mistrust of the police is so prevalent. When you have a single police officer, or several officers committing misdeeds, including murder, against members of the communities they are sworn to “serve and protect,” and those deeds go unchecked by fellow officers or the precinct watch commanders who are responsible for controlling and reigning in the bad conduct of their officers in the field, the communities will equate those misdeeds to the entire force. This is human nature, and to be expected. It is up to the police precincts to foster and maintain a more cooperative relationship with their communities. In order to do this, they must bring those officers responsible for criminal activities within those neighborhoods, to justice. It is inexcusable to make any attempt to justify criminal activity committed by law enforcement, and to expect the communities to support those same law enforcement officers. A “code of silence” has no place in law enforcement.

Chicago Police Department and its Code of Silence

A “code of silence” amongst law enforcement officers will go a long way in perpetuating acts of misconduct and the cover-up of police officer misdeeds and actual police criminal conduct within certain precincts. This unwritten code prevents a police officer from “snitching” on another police officer if he is aware that, that officer has engaged in some form of misconduct. Fear of retaliation and intimidation for providing evidence of police misconduct has no place in law enforcement. If such conduct is allowed within the ranks of our police officers, you will see a total breakdown between law enforcement and the communities.

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Law enforcement needs community cooperation, involvement, and support. The community needs law enforcement to “protect” it from criminal behavior and to “serve” it in dangerous situations. Both the community and law enforcement need each other in order to keep chaos at bay. But there are communities and neighborhoods in every state that do not understand this concept of interdependency. In those communities, the mistrust runs deep, unfortunately, spurred on by the media, by special interest groups for whatever political clout they feel they can get from it, and of course criminal elements that take advantage of the chasm between the police and residents.

The special interest groups, out of their own misguided intentions and misunderstanding of the importance of having the police and the communities work together, are convinced that law enforcement is the enemy. They are waging a very effective PR campaign again law enforcement, so much so that some communities are being made to believe that law enforcement and not the gang activity in the communities is destroying the neighborhoods.

Civil disobedience and glaring disrespect is the name of the name when there is any interaction between the police and members of these communities, including something as small as a traffic stop. These problems keep the police on high alert when they are called upon to enforce the law in these communities. This lack of mutual respect and trust between law enforcement and the neighborhoods has created a breeding ground for criminal activity.