CITY HALL — The head of the Chicago Police union blames additional paperwork in large part for the city's spike in shootings and murders this year — a claim the American Civil Liberties Union immediately branded "irresponsible."
"I do believe that," said Dean Angelo Sr., president of the local Fraternal Order of Police. "And I've been kind of criticized for saying that."
Ted Cox talks about paperwork slowing down the police.
While granting that "it's not just paperwork," Angelo insisted the implementation this year of two-page Investigative Stop Reports in place of the old checklist contact cards had led to fewer stops — and more violent crime.
"People have no idea how this affects policing in a major, metropolitan, violent community like Chicago," he said.
According to Angelo, where cops used to do the quick checklist on the contact cards for each encounter with someone on the street, they now fill out a two-page questionnaire for each contact. For a police officer trying to patrol several corners daily in a neighborhood with four or five people gathered on each, the paperwork multiplies.
"You do the math," he said. "Over a four-day work week, that's 400 pages."
That, Angelo said, is "detrimental to proactive policing" and leads cops to be more reactive in simply answering service calls.
"You wind up doing [reports] the whole day," he said. "So what you do is go past your corner, and you handle your calls for service. In the meantime, they get emboldened knowing that your likelihood of going over there is slim and none, unless there's a call specifically to that corner of a man with a gun. Then we all go."
Yet even then, he added, criminals can use smartphones to monitor police scanners and leave before police come.
"Yeah, there is an app for that," Angelo said. "It's technology at its worst. It's a contributing factor, definitely. Does it allow people to feel more comfortable to arm up out there? Absolutely."
Ed Yohnka, spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union, dismissed that scenario with criticism of his own.
"The good old days of the contact cards that Mr. Angelo loves, the FOP opposed," Yohnka said. "It's too much oversight for them. It's too much work. It took them too long. The fact is, they've never liked anything that looks or smells of accountability."
He said that previously, police made hundreds of thousands of stops that did not make the streets safer.
"In the summer of 2014, the Chicago Police Department stopped and searched 250,000 people without arresting them, issuing a ticket or doing anything else — 250,000," he added. "What good did that do in terms of addressing violence? The fact of the matter is, there is not a criminologist in the country who'll link the number of stops to either a reduction or an increase in crime.
"It's irresponsible to say it when you're representing the police," Yohnka said.
Yohnka pointed out that, if stops are still down this year, "gun seizures are actually up. So they're stopping the right people. So this process is working."
Angelo said that he had succeeded in convincing the General Assembly not to require all police to fill out the more detailed reports last year by convincing members of the Black Caucus they would actually be deterring crime-fighting in their neighborhoods. Yet the ACLU got the city Chicago to accept the reports as part of an agreement stemming from those 250,000 traffic stops Yohnka had mentioned.
Angelo said he'd like to see things go in the opposite direction.
"When I was in the Gang Crime Unit, we had over 900 murders a year" in the early '90s, he said, "and our mission was to take the corner back." Using a city law known as the Gang Congregation Ordinance that allowed the arrest of two or more people on a public way with no lawful purpose, they simply rounded people up.
"We were telling them, 'We're saving your lives, too, because now you're not here for a drive-by,' " Angelo added. "So you'd go to these corners after a while and there's nobody there. The murders dropped tremendously right after that. But the ACLU sued."
Yohnka said that suit, which technically was Chicago v. Morales, was won in the U.S. Supreme Court, with Justice John Paul Stevens ruling it could be used to impound two people discussing the Cubs outside Wrigley Field as readily as two people going to buy a quart of milk on the South Side.
"These comments are really entirely irresponsible," Yohnka responded. "The system of policing in Chicago is broken. There is no trust between the community and the police, and to suggest the answer to that is to simply turn the police loose on the street," is wrong. He called it a "vision of a police state where you simply are arrested for being present on the street."
Yohnka said that, if anything, the pendulum is likely to swing toward even more transparency and accountability in police affairs with the U.S. Department of Justice investigation being conducted in the wake of the Laquan McDonald case.
Yohnka added that the new reporting system is working and that it's supported by Police Department leadership.
"All it really does is provide a means of managers and supervisors knowing what officers are doing on the street. I guess Mr. Angelo doesn't like that," he said. "I suppose it doesn't work if you don't like the fact that police are actually going to be managed on the street. And again that you're not just going to let them do some wholly unconstitutional process of just arresting people because they don't like the way they look."
Angelo insisted he wants to make the streets safer for the community and police officers, including his son.
"It's all about keeping my city safe, keeping my son safe, because he's on the street" as the latest generation in a multigenerational police family, he said.
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