CITY HALL — Have Chicago Police officers stopped doing their jobs in the face of public scrutiny? Absolutely not, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the city's interim police superintendent said — but there has been a slowdown, and outside pressure can't be ignored.
On Wednesday, DNAinfo Chicago reported that police officers are making drastically fewer investigative stops and confiscating fewer guns as murders and shootings have increased so far this year. When Emanuel was asked what to make of this change, he said the officers he's spoken with "are determined to see their job through," but not without stress.
"They are operating, obviously, with greater public scrutiny that you can't ignore," in the wake of the Laquan McDonald case, he said.
Emanuel said he had just spoken Wednesday morning with two officers in the Deering District who had recently recovered a stolen car and two guns.
The stats, however, paint a different picture.
DNAinfo Chicago's Mark Konkol reported Wednesday that police investigative stops are down 80 percent compared to the same time period a year ago, while gun arrests are down 37 percent, and the number of guns confiscated is down 35 percent.
Interim Police Supt. John Escalante confirmed that officers are making significantly fewer gun arrests and confiscations, but said numbers should rise once officers take to new training.
Escalante said the reason for the decrease is twofold: a new state law that requires officers to have reasonable suspicion before pulling someone over, and the Police Department's new ACLU-approved policy, which calls for officers to document nearly all investigative stops, which are then to be reviewed by an outside agency.
The law and policies are new to officers — the law went into effect Jan. 1 — and Escalante said officers just haven't had time to adapt to the new rules of when someone can be pulled over and what must be documented. He said training for the new policy is ongoing.
"It's been a little confusing to officers used to the old training," he said at a news conference Wednesday. "I think we'll see things start to pick up again soon."
Fraternal Order of Police President Dean Angelo said low morale is to blame for the reduction in gun arrests and confiscations. But Escalante said he doesn't think morale is particularly low right now.
He said officers and detectives are frustrated that victims of gun violence and witnesses have been particularly reluctant to help in investigations, but that good police work is still being done.
"I'm not overly concerned with it," he said of police morale. "I see good [police work] every day."
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