The Ferguson Effect Strikes the Chicago PD
We turn our attention now to the city of Chicago, where both Northsiders and Southsiders are reveling to see that their respective baseball teams, the Cubs and the White Sox, are comfortably in first place. Yes, it’s only May, but in Chicago one must revel when one can. And when Chicagoans check their morning newspapers to see how their teams fared the previous evening – the batting averages, the home runs, the strikeouts, and all the rest – there is another set of statistics they consult, one that appears as regularly as the box scores but calls for no celebration: They look to see how many people in Chicago were shot overnight.
And they most often find the answer is quite a few, as reflected in this May 7 story from the Chicago Tribune. “A 58-year-old man was pronounced dead,” the story begins, “after a bullet ripped through a front door of his home and struck him in the head as he was eating dinner. The man was one of five people shot Saturday, police said.” The story was posted to the paper’s website at 9:55 p.m., Central Time, which left more than two hours of prime crime time for Saturday’s total to run even higher. But if the number of shooting victims held at five with only one of them killed, Chicagoans would label the day a modest success. So far this year the city has averaged more than nine people shot and 1.5 homicide victims per day.
And amid all this carnage we are told that the trouble in Chicago is not that people shoot each other with such casual alacrity and alarming frequency. No, they say, the trouble in Chicago is that the police officers aren’t nice enough. Last month, Chicago’s Police Accountability Task Force released its report (PDF) on the perceived defects of the Chicago Police Department, chief among which, they say, is racism. At a series of community forums held by the Task Force, the report says, Chicago residents expressed “their deeply held view that racism, or at least racial bias, is the root cause of the lack of trust between CPD and minority communities.” Indeed, the word “racism” appears 15 times in the 190-page report, and the word “bias” appears 84 times. We are thus led to believe that when one black teenager picks up a gun and shoots another black teenager, somewhere there is a white person who can and should be blamed for it.
The history of race relations in Chicago is long and complex, and no serious discussion of the city and its Police Department would be complete without addressing that history. But the Task Force surrenders much of its credibility on the matter in its nakedly dishonest effort to blame the city’s ills on racism in the Chicago P.D. On page 7 of the report, immediately after revealing its conclusions about police racism, the Task Force presents a series of statistics intended to buttress these conclusions. Among the people shot by Chicago police officers between 2008 and 2015, the report says, 74 percent were black, 14 percent were Hispanic, 8 percent were white, and 0.25 percent were Asians. The percentages break down similarly in the number of people on whom police used Tasers between 2012 and 2105. The city’s population, the report points out, is almost evenly split among whites, blacks, and Hispanics. Thus the uninformed reader is led to believe that the disproportionate number of shootings and Tasings involving blacks and Hispanics can only be ascribed to racial animus among police officers.