We turn our attention once again to the city of Chicago, where, as of this writing, 2,858 people have been shot and 487 have been killed so far this year (both numbers will surely be higher by the time you read this). The website HeyJackass.com tabulates these and other figures related to crime in Chicago, and it reports that on average someone is shot every two hours and murdered every twelve. But these averages are for the year overall; we are now in the prime shooting season of summer, and the averages for August approximate to someone being shot every ninety minutes and murdered every eight hours. August, says the Chicago Tribune, has been the most violent month in Chicago in 20 years.
Despite these grim numbers, there persists among many the notion that it is the city’s police officers who bear the greatest share of blame for all that ails Chicago. Propagating this myth most recently is this same Chicago Tribune, which on Friday published a story about the 435 police shootings that occurred in Chicago between 2010 and 2015.
The story begins by noting that over the six years examined, a Chicago police officer fired at someone every five days, killing 92 people and wounding 170. “While a few of those incidents captured widespread attention,” says the Tribune, “they occurred with such brutal regularity — and with scant information provided by police — that most have escaped public scrutiny.”
Given the statistics cited in the opening paragraph above, it would seem it is not the police who are shooting people with “such brutal regularity.” Indeed, many of the Tribune’s readers, aware that they live in a city where someone is shot every hour and a half and murdered every eight, might not be all that disturbed – and might even welcome it – when the police manage to shoot at some evil-doer every five days.
But of course it is not merely the number of police shootings that so discomfits the enlightened ones at the Chicago Tribune, it is the skin color of those who are shot. In the second of a series of bullet points near the top of the story, we are informed that “about four out of every five people shot [by police] were African-American males.” Such use of racial data is at minimum misleading if not dishonest, but at least the Tribune made an effort at offering some context in the story for those who bothered to read beyond the first few paragraphs. Police shootings, says the story, “were more common on the South and West sides, in crime-ridden blocks profoundly shaken by decades of drugs, gangs and unrelenting poverty.” Even less subtle with the racial angle was Time magazine, which on its website cited the Tribune story under this headline: “Majority of Chicago Police Shooting Victims are Black Men or Boys: Report.”
And from this bit of information the uninformed reader is expected to conclude the number of officer-involved shootings is excessive, most especially those involving black males. “For years,” says the Tribune, “examining the full scale of the problem in Chicago was impossible because the city refused to release most details about police-involved shootings.”
So the Tribune labels this as a “problem” but doesn’t say why, other than to mention that over the six years studied, Chicago had more police shootings than Los Angeles, New York, Houston, or Philadelphia. It fails to mention the pertinent fact that Chicago has far more violent crime than any of the other cities listed. In the first half of 2015, for example, Chicago had 207 murders while New York City, with 5.5 million more people, had 164. So far this year, Chicago has experienced almost 100 more murders than Los Angeles and New York combined.
And if the Chicago Tribune feels the demographics of those shot by the police are somehow out of kilter, perhaps they should consider this: according to the U.S. census, the population of Chicago is 32.9 percent black, yet blacks make up 78.6 percent of the city’s murder victims. In Chicago and elsewhere, almost all murders are intra-racial, so we may safely conclude that blacks are similarly over-represented among Chicago’s killers. The fact that four out of five people shot by Chicago police officers are black seems far less startling now, doesn’t it?
So do Chicago police officers really shoot too many people? One could make the case that they shoot too few, an assertion Nykea Aldridge’s loved ones might make. On Saturday afternoon, Aldridge, a cousin of Chicago Bulls guard Dwayne Wade, was pushing a stroller containing her infant daughter down Calumet Avenue when she was shot and killed. Two brothers, Darren and Darwin Sorrells, have been arrested and charged with her murder. To the surprise of exactly no one, both have lengthy arrest records and were on parole at the time of the killing.
Had some Chicago police officer spotted the Sorrells brothers in the moments before they made their fatal choice, had that cop killed them before they could kill Aldridge, today that officer would be vilified as a racist while the brothers were hailed as good fathers who were “getting their lives together,” and the local Black Lives Matter chapter would be mustering to shut down Michigan Avenue this weekend.
But Nykea Aldridge is just another name on a lengthening list of Chicago’s murder victims, noteworthy only for her relationship to a famous athlete. She will soon be forgotten by all but her family and friends – and the police officers and detectives who investigated her murder and will see it through what passes for a justice system in Chicago. Nothing to see here, Michigan Avenue will be open for business as usual this weekend.