Civil Rights Reform Causing Crime Wave, Chicago Cops Say

Published March 17, 2016

Law enforcement officers in Chicago are claiming a recent spike in gun violence in the city is rooted in a recent legal agreement requiring police street investigations to comply with a stricter understanding of constitutional and civil rights protections.

The agreement, which was struck between the Illinois chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Chicago Police Department (CPD) in August 2015, requires independent auditing of police procedures and increased data collection by CPD about the frequency and nature of investigatory “street stops.”

In January 2016, there were 50 homicides in Chicago, compared to 28 homicides in January 2015 and 20 in January 2014.

Law enforcement officers interviewed by the Chicago Sun-Times in January 2016 said the agreement with ACLU is emboldening criminals.

No ‘National Trend’

Lauren Krisai, director of criminal justice reform for the Reason Foundation, says there is no evidence to suggest the spike in homicides in Chicago is part of a larger trend.

“Fewer police officers were killed on duty in 2015 than ever before, and violent crime is at an all-time low,” Krisai said. “While certain violent crimes have increased in a few cities, this is not representative of a national trend.”

Doing Their Duty

Krisai says respecting citizens’ constitutional rights is part of law enforcement officers’ duties.

“If certain police officers are saying they don’t want to do their jobs because people are paying attention to how they’re policing, perhaps they aren’t the best-suited candidates for the job in the first place,” Krisai said. “Police officers are members of the communities they police and need to protect the constitutional rights of all individuals who are a part of that community. If they feel they aren’t able to fulfill their duties as officers because groups are monitoring their behavior to ensure individual rights are protected, perhaps they should look for another profession.”

‘The Challenges of Policing’

Heather MacDonald, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, says CPD officers should have more latitude, not less, in patrolling the streets of Chicago.

“It is clear the ACLU has no idea about the challenges of policing in a community where fathers have disappeared [and] where police are the only source of social control and order,” MacDonald said.

MacDonald says lawmakers should work to make police officers’ jobs easier, not more difficult.

“There is not a police officer in the country who believes the ACLU is there to help them,” MacDonald said.

Andy Torbett ([email protected]) writes from Atkinson, Maine.