WBEZ | Criminal Justice http://www.wbez.org/news/criminal-justice Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Chicago mayor's commission unveils plan for a safer Chicago http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-mayors-commission-unveils-plan-safer-chicago-111241 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP973232440855.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The city of Chicago released <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/mayor/supp_info/the-mayor-s-commission-for-a-safer-chicago.html" target="_blank">a report</a> today with 28 recommendations to address the city&#39;s youth violence problem.</p><p>Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Mayor&#39;s Commission for a Safe Chicago released the report. The recommendations include adding eight &quot;peace rooms&quot; in Chicago Public schools for conflict resolution and connecting families with counseling.</p><p>&ldquo;Every child in the city of Chicago deserves a childhood, and that childhood cannot be stolen from them,&rdquo; Emanuel said in unveiling the plan. &ldquo;And every adolescent deserves their adolescence free of violence. So I hope we take this work &hellip; not just as another report [but as] a call to action.&rdquo;</p><p>While it is billed as a strategic plan for 2015, most of the report&rsquo;s 64 pages are dedicated to celebrating past accomplishments by the Emanuel administration. Of the 60 violence prevention programs highlighted in the report&rsquo;s executive summary, 13 of them are new or updated for 2015.</p><p>One of the new ideas presented in the plan calls on the Chicago Police Department to explore alternatives to arresting first-time juvenile offenders.</p><p>&ldquo;We recommend exploring possible alternatives to arrest for first-time juvenile offenders such as tickets or &hellip; community service,&rdquo; said co-chair Eddie Bocanegra with the YMCA.</p><p>And the written report says the police department will do just that in 2015. But spokesmen for the mayor&rsquo;s office and CPD declined to provide any specifics on the plan.</p><p>The commission&rsquo;s plan focuses on youth violence because, according to the city, people 29 and younger have made up more than 60 percent of Chicago&rsquo;s homicide victims over the past five years. It aims to decrease crime by treating youth violence as a public health issue. That means a focus on education, trauma therapy and youth employment.</p><p>Emanuel pointed to <a href="https://soundcloud.com/afternoonshiftwbez/new-study-reveals-local-summer-jobs-program-reduces-youth-violence" target="_blank">a recent study by the University of Chicago Crime Lab and the University of Pennsylvania</a> that showed the One Summer Plus youth jobs program helped reduce arrests by more than 40 percent over a 16-month period.</p><p>This is the first report by the Mayor&rsquo;s Commission for a Safer Chicago. It was written after three forums held over the summer attended by government representatives, faith groups and community organizations.</p><p>The commission also sought out opinions from about 200 young people in more than a dozen Chicago communities.</p><p><em>Patrick Smith is a WBEZ reporter and producer. Follow him on twitter <a href="http://twitter.com/pksmid" target="_blank">@pksmid</a>. The Associated Press also contributed to this report.</em></p></p> Tue, 16 Dec 2014 14:28:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-mayors-commission-unveils-plan-safer-chicago-111241 Cook County to join cameras-in-court program http://www.wbez.org/news/cook-county-join-cameras-court-program-111240 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Illinois_Supreme_Court wikimedia.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The Illinois Supreme Court has allowed the use of cameras and audio recording devices in Cook County courts on an experimental basis starting next month.</p><p>Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Rita Garman and Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans made the announcement Tuesday morning. Cook County is the largest and latest of dozens of counties in Illinois that have joined a state high court camera pilot program that launched in 2012.</p><p>Court officials say the program will begin Jan. 5 in the felony courtrooms at the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago. It&#39;s been the site of many high-profile trials. Bond hearings are excluded from the pilot project.</p><p>Illinois has allowed cameras to be present during Supreme Court and Appellate Court hearings since 1983.</p></p> Tue, 16 Dec 2014 13:17:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/cook-county-join-cameras-court-program-111240 Report details big problems at Illinois prison for women; state says it's safe http://www.wbez.org/news/report-details-big-problems-illinois-prison-women-state-says-its-safe-111230 <p><p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.15;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-a5e63f9b-53b1-62ff-3b89-808b4b5244cb"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Arial; font-style: italic; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">UPDATED at 9:23 a.m. on Dec. 16, 2014</span></span></p><p><span style="font-family: Arial; font-size: 16px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1.15;">A new report out Monday shows major problems at Logan Correctional Center, a prison for women in central Illinois. Those problems include housing units at Logan Prison with a ratio of 156 inmates for one officer. </span></p><p><span style="font-family: Arial; font-size: 16px; line-height: 1.15; white-space: pre-wrap;">Earlier this year, two suicides took place within 30 days there. And women in segregation told researchers the noise was so loud, they couldn&rsquo;t get anyone&rsquo;s attention for medical treatment.</span></p><p><span style="font-family: Arial; font-size: 16px; line-height: 1.15; white-space: pre-wrap;">John Maki with the John Howard Association, which issued the report, said Logan&rsquo;s problems were exacerbated when the state closed other centers for women and the correctional center in Dwight.</span></p><p><span style="font-family: Arial; font-size: 16px; line-height: 1.15; white-space: pre-wrap;">&ldquo;All we ended up doing was consolidating more people into less space and that has made for very, very poor conditions,&rdquo; said Maki.&ldquo;It was a facility that was not staffed, that was not prepared to meet the needs, you know, of female inmates.&rdquo; </span></p><p><span style="font-family: Arial; font-size: 16px; line-height: 1.15; white-space: pre-wrap;">At the time of the prison closures, the Illinois Department of Corrections estimated the state was saving about $7 million a month. </span></p><p><span style="font-family: Arial; font-size: 16px; line-height: 1.15; white-space: pre-wrap;">But the prison is safe for inmates, according to Tom Shaer, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC).</span></p><p><span style="font-family: Arial; font-size: 16px; line-height: 1.15; white-space: pre-wrap;">&ldquo;To say that closing Dwight Correctional Center was ill-conceived based on what&rsquo;s happening at Logan, we believe is not at all the case,&rdquo; Shaer said. &ldquo;In fact, the safety and security at Logan has been outstanding.&rdquo; </span></p><p><span style="font-family: Arial; font-size: 16px; line-height: 1.15; white-space: pre-wrap;">Shaer said there&rsquo;s been one serious assault on staff in the previous two years, which occurred when that employee was breaking up a fight among inmates. In a written statement, he also noted, &ldquo;Medical personnel walk every cell wing to check needs daily and officers are present at all times. It is virtually impossible to be unheard, especially for medical attention.&rdquo;</span></p><p><span style="font-family: Arial; font-size: 16px; line-height: 1.15; white-space: pre-wrap;">Shaer also said the investigations into the two suicides found they did not occur because of a lack of resources. He said neither inmate had shown evidence of intending to commit suicide - and neither was on suicide watch.</span></p><p><span style="font-family: Arial; font-size: 16px; line-height: 1.15; white-space: pre-wrap;">Logan Correctional Center is also where the majority of inmates with mental health issues are sent. It&rsquo;s in the process of adding 120 beds for inmates with mental health needs, due to litigation over IDOC&rsquo;s mental health services. That project is expected to cost about $8 million.</span></p><p><span style="font-family: Arial; font-size: 16px; line-height: 1.15; white-space: pre-wrap;">&ldquo;It&rsquo;s where we send some of the most mentally ill people in our state and it&rsquo;s simply not staffed for that. There&rsquo;s no real resources for that, which is why it&rsquo;s being sued. Which is why there&rsquo;s a consent decree being worked out, which will cost the state millions and millions of dollars to build that capacity,&rdquo; Maki said. </span></p><p><span style="font-family: Arial; font-size: 16px; line-height: 1.15; white-space: pre-wrap;">Maki is serving on a small committee to advise Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner about the state&rsquo;s public safety needs.</span></p><p><span style="font-family: Arial; font-size: 16px; line-height: 1.15; white-space: pre-wrap;">&ldquo;We&rsquo;re not trying to paint a rosy picture, but we don&rsquo;t believe that this (report) at all shows that the closing of Dwight was ill-conceived. And it saved the taxpayers tens of millions of dollars while not compromising safety and security at Logan,&rdquo; IDOC spokesman Shaer said.</span></p><p><span style="font-family: Arial; font-size: 16px; font-style: italic; line-height: 1.15; white-space: pre-wrap;">This story was updated to reflect IDOC&rsquo;s response to some claims in the John Howard Association report.</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.15; font-size: 16px; font-family: Arial; font-style: italic; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him </span><a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold" style="line-height: 1.15; text-decoration: none;"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(17, 85, 204); font-style: italic; text-decoration: underline; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">@tonyjarnold</span></a><span style="line-height: 1.15; font-size: 16px; font-family: Arial; font-style: italic; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">.</span></p><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Mon, 15 Dec 2014 05:50:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/report-details-big-problems-illinois-prison-women-state-says-its-safe-111230 Criminal probe after gas evacuates 'furries' event http://www.wbez.org/news/criminal-probe-after-gas-evacuates-furries-event-111203 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/ap369870749900-6cb6149372bd01c6980713a5a664451b31a557e3-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>ROSEMONT, Ill. &mdash; Authorities are investigating the release of a gas that sickened several hotel guests and forced thousands of people &mdash; many dressed as cartoon animals &mdash; to evacuate the building.</p><p>Although some participants at the Midwest FurFest convention thought the mass evacuation early Sunday was just part of the fun, investigators are treating it as a criminal matter.</p><p>Nineteen people who became nauseous or dizzy were treated at local hospitals. Within hours, emergency workers decontaminated the Hyatt Regency O&#39;Hare and allowed people back inside.</p><p>The Rosemont Public Safety Department said someone apparently intentionally left a powder that appeared to contain chlorine in a ninth-floor hotel stairway, causing the gas to spread. On Monday, the department would only say that the investigation was continuing and declined further comment.</p><p>Organizers tried to reassure the participants that the evacuation would not overshadow the FurFest event, in which attendees celebrate animals that are anthropomorphic &mdash; meaning they&#39;ve been given human characteristics &mdash; through art, literature and performance. Many of the costumed attendees refer to themselves as &quot;furries.&quot;</p><p>&quot;In walk all these people dressed like dogs and foxes,&quot; said Pieter Van Hiel, a 40-year-old technical writer from Hamilton, Canada, chuckling as he recalled the crowd being herded into the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, where a dog show was taking place over the weekend.</p><p>Kit McCreedy, a 28-year-old from Madison, Wisconsin, said he didn&#39;t think the incident would further disrupt Midwest FurFest, which was in its final day.</p><p>&quot;I think we&#39;ll recover from this,&quot; said McCreedy, his fox tail swinging behind him as he headed back inside. &quot;People are tired but they&#39;re still full of energy.&quot;</p><p>Others said they didn&#39;t know why anyone would try to upset the convention that includes dance contests and panel discussions on making the costumes. Some pointed out that the brightly colored outfits are made from fake fur and foam.</p><p>&quot;Nobody uses real fur,&quot; said Frederic Cesbron, a 35-year-old forklift operator who flew to Chicago from his home in France. He attended the convention dressed in a fox outfit that he said is worth about $3,000.</p><p>&quot;Everyone is from a different background,&quot; said Michael Lynch, a 25-year-old from Madison, Wisconsin, who, like his buddy, McCreedy, dressed as a fox. &quot;Nobody judges anybody. It&#39;s nice to come to a place like that.&quot;</p><p>Or, as Van Hiel put it, &quot;It&#39;s kind of weird, but it&#39;s not weird here.&quot;</p></p> Mon, 08 Dec 2014 16:42:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/criminal-probe-after-gas-evacuates-furries-event-111203 Lawsuit seeks information on alleged CPD spying http://www.wbez.org/news/lawsuit-seeks-information-alleged-cpd-spying-111202 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/sskc.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>Activists say the Chicago Police Department is monitoring their cell phones at protests, and they are trying to use a lawsuit to prove it.</p><p>At issue are cell-phone interceptors called stingrays. These force mobile phones to communicate with them by mimicking a cell tower. For years, Chicago police denied owning any of these stingrays, but a 2014 lawsuit forced the department to turn over records proving the department had purchased several of them.</p><p>Government transparency attorney Matt Topic was the lead attorney on that case.</p><p>&ldquo;Once the stingray has tricked phones in the vicinity into thinking it&rsquo;s talking to a cell tower when it&rsquo;s actually talking to the police,&quot; Topic said. &quot;It can force the phones to broadcast to the police things like &hellip; the call logs and many think these can actually be used to intercept the content of the communications themselves.&rdquo;</p><blockquote><p><strong>Related: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/www.wbez.org/news/who-polices-police-chicago-its-increasingly-ex-cops-111194" target="_blank">Who polices the police? In Chicago, it&#39;s mostly ex-cops</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>Topic, who is an attorney at Chicago firm Loevy and Loevy, says because the interceptor mimics a cell tower it can only work within a certain radius.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t know what that radius is, but I believe it&rsquo;s a large enough radius that if the police department put one of these devices into a truck or into a car and drove it up next to a reasonably sized protest, they could certainly secretly obtain a lot of information from protesters who are there.&rdquo;</p><p>Topic says it is a reasonable concern that the Chicago Police Department may be using these stingrays to get information during demonstrations. He pointed to a post by the hacker group Anonymous of a recording allegedly taken from the Chicago police scanner. In the recording a man, who Anonymous says is a Chicago police officer, asks if the department is monitoring a protest organizer&rsquo;s cell phone conversation.</p><p>That recording, and pictures of an Office of Emergency Management and Communication vehicle allegedly following marchers, has sparked several allegations of police spying.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Related: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-protestors-focus-future-111201" target="_blank">From pulpits to protests, Chicago clergy lead demonstrations</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>An OEMC spokeswoman says the SVU that has raised demonstrators&rsquo; suspicious is a vehicle equipped with mobile field cameras the city uses often in planned and unplanned large scale events and that it&rsquo;s nothing more. She says it does not have any sort of spying or monitoring capabilities beyond the ability to shoot video.</p><p>And a Chicago Police Department spokesman says the department hasn&rsquo;t used the stingrays during demonstrations.</p><p>But Ed Yohnka with the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois says that isn&rsquo;t good enough. Yohnka says the department refuses to admit how they are using the stingrays, which naturally leads people to be suspicious.</p><p>Yohnka says their use has been &ldquo;treated as a great secret by government at all levels.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;We know that this technology has been used in connection with protests in other places,&rdquo; Yohnka said. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t know whether or not that&rsquo;s been used in Chicago. I would say that if this technology is being used to track people, if there are technologies that are being used to collect large swaths of communication, those are things that are very troubling and very wrong and I think people would rightly be concerned about them.&rdquo;</p><p>Topic&rsquo;s latest lawsuit, brought on behalf of privacy advocate Freddie Martinez, is meant to compel the Chicago Police Department to say when and where the stingrays are being used.</p><p>&ldquo;The second suit, which asks for broader records (as to the extent to which the equipment is being used, with what constitutional safeguards, what happens with data), that complaint was filed a while back and we&rsquo;re expecting the police department&rsquo;s answer to that complaint [this] week,&rdquo; Topic said.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re very interested to see &hellip; whether these are wholesale constitutional violations and if so we intend to explore what can be done about them,&rdquo; Topic said.</p><p><em>Patrick Smith is WBEZ&rsquo;s morning news producer. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/pksmid" target="_blank">@pksmid </a></em></p></p> Mon, 08 Dec 2014 15:33:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/lawsuit-seeks-information-alleged-cpd-spying-111202 Chicago protestors focus on the future http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-protestors-focus-future-111201 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/friday protest.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>Hundreds of people demonstrated on Chicago&#39;s West Side over the weekend to bring more attention to the recent deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.</p><p>Area pastors encouraged congregants to join a march shutting down the intersection of Madison and Pulaski. Demonstrators say this is only the beginning of a movement that&#39;ll go beyond holding signs in the streets.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Related: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/who-polices-police-chicago-its-increasingly-ex-cops-111194" target="_blank">Who polices the police in Chicago? Mostly ex-cops</a></strong></p></blockquote><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/180564592&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Thousands of church-goers also ditched their traditional services and flooded streets all throughout Chicago&#39;s South Side on Sunday. Their pastors urged them to march in solidarity with protesters who for weeks now have been bringing attention to cases of black men killed by police. Pastors say the marches should have taken place decades ago.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Listen to the Morning Shift conversation</span></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/180557897&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Mon, 08 Dec 2014 11:05:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-protestors-focus-future-111201 Who polices the police? In Chicago, it's increasingly ex-cops http://www.wbez.org/news/who-polices-police-chicago-its-increasingly-ex-cops-111194 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/P1080151cropscale.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px; float: right; height: 236px; width: 350px;" title="Protests like this one at Chicago police headquarters last week have become frequent since August, when an officer in Ferguson, Missouri, shot to death an unarmed 18-year-old. Chicago’s Independent Police Review Authority, the city agency in charge of investigating shootings by cops, has never found one to be unjustified. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)" />Public officials around the country are grappling with how to handle police officers accused of using deadly force without justification. In New York City, it&rsquo;s an officer whose chokehold led to the death of a 43-year-old man in July. In Cleveland, it&rsquo;s&nbsp;a cop who fatally shot a 12-year-old last month. In Ferguson, Missouri, tempers are still hot about the August shooting death of an unarmed 18-year-old.</p><p>Then there&rsquo;s Chicago. Since 2007, according to city records, police gunfire has killed at least 116 people and injured another 258. The city&rsquo;s Independent Police Review Authority, the agency in charge of investigating those shootings, has not found a single one to be unjustified.</p><p>Now a WBEZ investigation raises questions about just how independent the agency is. City records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request show that IPRA&rsquo;s management now includes six former cops &mdash; officials who have spent most of their career in sworn law enforcement. Those include the agency&rsquo;s top three leaders.</p><p>&ldquo;Complaints may be seen not through the eyes of the citizen but through the eyes of a police officer,&rdquo; said Paula Tillman, a former IPRA investigative supervisor who was a Chicago cop herself in the 1970s and 1980s. &ldquo;The investigations can be engineered so that they have a tilt toward law enforcement and not what the citizen is trying to say.&rdquo;</p><p>Tillman, who left IPRA in 2012, said she noticed a tilt in some of those shooting probes.</p><p>Experts say a paucity of sustained excessive-force complaints is not unusual for a police-oversight agency, even in a big city. But it was not supposed to be that way in Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;One misconduct [incident] is one too many and I think people want openness &mdash; transparency from the police department,&rdquo; Mayor Richard M. Daley said in 2007 when he announced the formation of IPRA in response to a series of scandals, most memorably a video recording that showed a beefy off-duty cop named Anthony Abbate beating up a petite bartender who had refused to serve him.</p><p>Previously, police-brutality complaints against Chicago cops were handled by the Office of Professional Standards, a unit of the police department itself.</p><p>Daley moved the agency under his direct supervision and gave it subpoena power. He also kept civilians in charge of IPRA to counter what he called &ldquo;the perception&rdquo; that investigations into alleged police misconduct were tainted by cops.</p><p>Seven years later, that perception still dogs the agency. But IPRA Chief Administrator Scott Ando, a former high-ranking U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent, told WBEZ he had no bias that would favor an officer who pulls the trigger.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Ando3crop.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px; float: left; height: 205px; width: 250px;" title="Scott Ando, a former top U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent, now heads Chicago’s Independent Police Review Authority. His management team includes six former cops. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)" />&ldquo;What I really have is a sense of pride in 33 years of a professional law-enforcement career,&rdquo; Ando said. &ldquo;Every time someone, no matter where they&rsquo;re from, tarnishes that reputation of law enforcement, it offends me. And I can assure you that everybody that works for me that&rsquo;s [from] law enforcement, and otherwise, takes what we do very seriously.&rdquo;</p><p>Besides Ando, IPRA&rsquo;s leadership includes First Deputy Chief Administrator Steven Mitchell, another former top DEA agent, and Deputy Chief Administrator Steven Hirsch, a former criminal investigation chief of the Illinois Department of Revenue. IPRA investigative supervisors include former Chicago police Cmdr. Lorenzo Davis, former high-ranking DEA agent David Marzullo, and Joshua Hunt, a former homicide detective in Savannah, Georgia.</p><p>Ando said he had hired former cops because of their expertise in everything from management to investigation to police procedures. Plus, he pointed out, those former cops are part of a 90-member staff.</p><p>&ldquo;We also have 11 attorneys,&rdquo; Ando said, including several with a background in criminal defense. &ldquo;When you get to the investigative ranks, the vast majority have come from inspector-general offices, corporate-security firms [and] background investigations.&rdquo;</p><p>Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who tapped Ando to head IPRA last year, did not answer WBEZ when we asked whether the agency&rsquo;s management shift conflicted with its oversight mission. He referred our questions to IPRA, whose spokesman sent a statement praising the agency&rsquo;s &ldquo;balanced workforce&rdquo; and listing recent community outreach efforts, including a new brochure and the creation of a satellite office and an advisory board.</p><p>Ando said he and the other former cops on his staff have helped IPRA increase its rate of sustained police-misconduct complaints.</p><p>One recent IPRA investigation led to Cook County felony charges against a police district commander, Glenn Evans, for allegedly inserting the barrel of his handgun down a 22-year-old&rsquo;s throat last year while pressing a Taser to his crotch and threatening to kill him &mdash; a case revealed by WBEZ. (Ando in April recommended that Supt. Garry McCarthy strip Evans of police powers. But McCarthy, backed by Emanuel, did not remove Evans from the command post until the charges were brought more than four months later.)</p><p>Ando said the former cops on his staff have also been crucial in reducing a case backlog. &ldquo;The average investigator &mdash; not that long ago, maybe 18-24 months ago &mdash; had a caseload of 35 on average,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Now they&rsquo;re down to about 15. It gives us time to really work correctly and diligently on the ones that deserve the greatest attention &mdash; the most serious allegations.&rdquo;</p><p>Samuel Walker, a University of Nebraska at Omaha criminologist, says it is common for the independence of police-oversight agencies to erode. He said police unions sometimes convince politicians to curb an agency&rsquo;s powers. Or, as in Chicago, the mayor allows former cops to take the lead.</p><p>&ldquo;They make the argument that somebody with a law-enforcement background is going to better understand policing and be able to do a better job of assessing complaints,&rdquo; Walker said.</p><p>But he thinks this argument only goes so far. &ldquo;Public perception of independence is critically important in terms of the credibility of the agency,&rdquo; Walker said. &ldquo;As you staff it with people with law-enforcement backgrounds, you&rsquo;re going to create distrust.&rdquo;</p><p>That distrust, Walker said, means police brutality may go unreported and unpunished.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/cmitchell-0">Chip Mitchell</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s West Side bureau reporter. Follow him on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/ChipMitchell1">@ChipMitchell1</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>, and connect with him through <a href="https://www.facebook.com/chipmitchell1">Facebook</a>, <a href="https://plus.google.com/111079509307132701769" rel="me">Google+</a> and <a href="http://www.linkedin.com/in/ChipMitchell1">LinkedIn</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 05 Dec 2014 06:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/who-polices-police-chicago-its-increasingly-ex-cops-111194 Disbelief by some in Hammond after accused cops are reinstated http://www.wbez.org/news/disbelief-some-hammond-after-accused-cops-are-reinstated-111159 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/hammond_1.png" alt="" /><p><p><em>Updated 11/25/2014 at 4 p.m.</em></p><p>Two Hammond, Indiana police officers involved in a controversial traffic stop that invited comparisons to Ferguson, Missouri are back on patrol after the mayor asserted they were cleared of any wrongdoing by the FBI.</p><p>But now&nbsp;the FBI agent in charge of the investigation, Bob Ramsey, denies that, saying the case is ongoing and the officers have yet to be cleared.</p><div>&quot;At this point, no,&quot; Ramsey said. &quot;The Hammond police department has been very open with us, very cooperative, very forthcoming through this entire process. They have provided us information pertaining to the events that happened on the day of question. However, we are still in the process of gathering additional information and a review is not complete at this point.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Asked to respond, Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott Jr. is sticking to his guns.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>He says he received a letter on Sunday from another FBI agent that the officers were cleared and it was appropriate to put them back on patrol.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Officers Patrick Vicari and Charles Turner, who are white, were caught on video smashing a window and tasing an unarmed black passenger during an incident that stirred outrage at both the local and national level.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The news of their reinstatement came just hours before a Grand Jury decided not to indict the police officer at the center of events in Ferguson.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;Now that we received the results back from the FBI, I made the decision, we made the decision to place both of these officers back on duty,&rdquo; McDermott. said Monday afternoon. &ldquo;They will be back on duty immediately.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Lavance Turner, a student at Purdue University Calumet in Hammond, was perplexed by the decision.</div><p>&ldquo;I really do believe that was a complete violation of any and everything regarding [the passenger&rsquo;s] personal well being and how they went about it,&rdquo; Turner said.</p><p>He and fellow student Michael Carson reacted to the news while watching the Ferguson Grand Jury announcement on TV in the student center on campus.</p><p>&ldquo;You see that! They&rsquo;re about to riot. No indictment?&rdquo; said the 22-year-old Carson moments after the decision was read by the prosecutor in St. Louis County, Missouri.</p><p>The two students were equally baffled that criminal charges weren&rsquo;t filed against the two Hammond police officers who had been on desk duty the past few weeks.</p><p>The case stemmed from an incident on Sept. 24 when Lisa Mahone, a black motorist was pulled over for not wearing her seatbelt.</p><p>Officers Vicari and Turner stopped Mahone, 27, on 169th Street near Cline Avenue in the city&rsquo;s Hessville neighborhood.</p><p>The officers&rsquo; attention quickly turned to a front seat passenger in the car, 42-year-old Jamal Jones. They ordered him to produce identification and get out of the car. After Jones spent several tense minutes trying to explain he had no I.D. and refusing to exit the vehicle, officers smashed the passenger window, used a taser and arrested Jones.</p><p>Much of the incident was recorded on a cell phone by Mahone&rsquo;s 14-year-old son in the backseat. A young girl also sitting in the rear of the vehicle is heard crying in the video.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="465" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/XsW-QCxXkQA?showinfo=0" width="620"></iframe></p><p>The video went viral and Purdue Cal student Lavance Turner says he watched it dozens of times on social media.</p><p>&ldquo;You can&rsquo;t really resist physically if you&rsquo;re in your own car. So, I don&rsquo;t understand if the officer felt threatened. It was really strange,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>A Hammond police spokesman said the officers feared for their safety when one officer said he saw Jones drop his hands behind the center console of the vehicle.</p><p>Mayor McDermott was steadfast in his defense of Officers Turner and Vicari.</p><p>&ldquo;If we condone this type of behavior and make it so that every time a person who is pulled over for a seat belt violation or anything else that it can drag on for 15 or 20 minutes for something as simple as someone handing over an ID,&rdquo; McDermott said.&nbsp; &ldquo;If that&rsquo;s the America that we&rsquo;re heading towards, that&rsquo;s not going to be an ideal place to live.&rdquo;</p><p>Lisa Mahone and Jamal Jones filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Hammond Police Department.</p><p>Their attorney, Dana Kurtz, says McDermott is part of the problem.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not just officers engaging in excessive force, it&rsquo;s police departments and, especially in this case, the mayor of the city of Hammond, condoning what these officers did,&rdquo; Kurtz said. &ldquo;That just encourages this kind of conduct to continue.&rdquo;</p><p>McDermott has long rejected the comparisons to Ferguson by pundits. But he says the incident has impressed upon him that he needs to work closer with the city&rsquo;s African-American population.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think there are any winners or losers in this. I can tell you the Mayor of Hammond has heard the frustrations loud and clear,&rdquo; McDermott said.</p><p>The Hammond chapter of the NAACP is pushing the city to hire more African American police officers. Currently, the Hammond Police Department has 9 black officers out of a force of 151.</p><p>Blacks account for 20 percent of Hammond&rsquo;s 80,000 residents.</p><p>&ldquo;The (African-American) numbers in the Hammond Police Department are too low and I&rsquo;m going to fix that,&rdquo; McDermott said.</p><p>Rev. Homer Cobb, head of Hammond&rsquo;s NAACP, said he always had his doubts about whether the FBI actually cleared the officers, and he still thinks the controversial traffic stop could&rsquo;ve been better handled.</p><p>But Cobb adds he appreciates the dialogue that&rsquo;s been established with the mayor and police department since then.</p><p>&ldquo;I wouldn&rsquo;t consider Hammond to be as volatile as Ferguson but there&rsquo;s every bit of a concern all across the nation because we&rsquo;re dealing with profiling and events happening without accountability,&rdquo; Cobb said. &ldquo;What we want is a better Hammond.</p><p><em>Correction: A previous version of this story mistakenly stated that the FBI had cleared the two police officers of any wrongdoing. That was according to Hammond mayor Tom McDermott, Jr. The story has now been updated with direct comment from the FBI.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 25 Nov 2014 12:44:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/disbelief-some-hammond-after-accused-cops-are-reinstated-111159 A look at what's ahead in the Ferguson case http://www.wbez.org/news/criminal-justice/look-whats-ahead-ferguson-case-111156 <p><p>WASHINGTON (AP) &mdash; A St. Louis County grand jury declined Monday to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old in Ferguson, Missouri. The decision resolves one aspect of the case, but additional investigations remain and the community for months has been bracing for demonstrations in anticipation of the grand jury&#39;s decision.</p><p>A look at some of the likely next steps in Ferguson:</p><p>Q. What other investigations are underway?</p><p>A: The FBI and the Justice Department are continuing to investigate the shooting for potential civil rights violations. Investigators would need to satisfy a rigorous standard of proof in order to mount a prosecution. Whereas the county grand jury could consider multiple charges, Justice Department lawyers have a single focus: whether it can be shown that Wilson willfully deprived Brown of his civil rights. That is a difficult burden to meet, especially considering the wide latitude given to police officers in using deadly force. Some other past high-profile police shootings, including the 1999 killing of Amadou Diallo in New York City, did not result in federal prosecutions.</p><p>Q. What about broader allegations of racial insensitivity on the part of the Ferguson police department?</p><p>A: Beyond the shooting itself, the Justice Department is conducting a wide-reaching investigation into the practices of the entire department. That investigation is focusing on stops, searches and arrests and generally looking for patterns of discrimination within the overwhelmingly white department. It has the potential to require major changes in the policing methods of the Ferguson force. Such broader reviews typically rely on data and interviews in the community and can take far longer than a criminal investigation.</p><p>The Justice Department has initiated roughly 20 investigations of troubled police departments in the past five years, or more than twice the number undertaken in the five years before that.</p><p>And regardless of the outcome of the criminal investigation, there&#39;s also the potential that Brown&#39;s family could file a wrongful-death lawsuit against Wilson.</p><p>Q: How long might these other investigations go on?</p><p>A: The Justice Department has not set a timeline for either investigation, though outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder has said he expects the federal investigation into the shooting to be concluded before he leaves office.</p><p>Q: How will authorities deal with any protests?</p><p>A: Holder has appealed for calm among police and protesters and President Barack Obama urged the people of Ferguson &quot;to keep protests peaceful.&quot; Police have been bracing for protests in the community, particularly after the unrest that roiled Ferguson in the weeks after the shooting. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon pre-emptively declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard in anticipation of potentially raucous protests, with the St. Louis County Police Department placed in charge of security. Gun sales surged before the grand jury decision and some shop owners boarded up their stores.</p><p>A federal law enforcement team has been working with top commanders in Ferguson and from neighboring police departments to help reduce tensions and build trust.</p><p>Q: Are there longer-term efforts to deal with underlying problems?</p><p>A: Nixon several days ago named 16 members to a panel aimed at helping the community heal after the shooting. The commission, which will study underlying social and economic conditions, is expected to make recommendations in a report due by September 2015.</p><p>___</p><p>Follow Eric Tucker on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/etuckerAP</p></p> Mon, 24 Nov 2014 21:48:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/criminal-justice/look-whats-ahead-ferguson-case-111156 Key figures in the Ferguson, Missouri, shooting http://www.wbez.org/news/criminal-justice/key-figures-ferguson-missouri-shooting-111154 <p><p>FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) &mdash; A look at some of the key figures in the case of Michael Brown, the black 18-year-old who was shot and killed by a white police officer in August &mdash; a death that stirred weeks of violent unrest in the St. Louis suburb.</p><p>___</p><p>MICHAEL BROWN</p><p>Michael Brown graduated from Normandy High School last spring and was preparing to attend Vatterott College, where he planned to study to become a heating and air conditioning technician. Friends say he eventually wanted to go into business for himself.</p><p>Relatives and friends described Brown, who grew up in a tough neighborhood, as a quiet, gentle giant who stood around 6-foot-3 and weighed nearly 300 pounds. He was unarmed on the day he was killed.</p><p>Police said later that he was a suspect in the &quot;strong-arm&quot; robbery of a convenience store moments before the shooting. A family attorney said Brown may have made mistakes but did not deserve to die.</p><p>&quot;He was just looking forward to getting on with his life,&quot; said his grandmother, Desuirea Harris. &quot;He was on his way.&quot;</p><p>___</p><p>OFFICER DARREN WILSON</p><p>Some descriptions of Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson are similar to those of Brown. Both men have been described as gentle and quiet. Police Chief Thomas Jackson said Wilson had no previous complaints against him and a good career record.</p><p>&quot;He&#39;s devastated,&quot; the chief said after naming Wilson as the shooter back in August. &quot;He never intended for this to happen. He is, and has been, an excellent police officer.&quot;</p><p>Wilson began his career in nearby Jennings before moving to the Ferguson job several years ago. He was placed on paid administrative leave after the shooting.</p><p>___</p><p>POLICE CHIEF THOMAS JACKSON</p><p>Thomas Jackson was a police veteran long before he came to Ferguson. He spent more than 30 years with the St. Louis County Police Department, at one point serving as commander of a drug task force. Before that he was a SWAT team supervisor, undercover detective and hostage negotiator.</p><p>He heads a department with 53 officers, only three of them black, in a town where nearly 70 percent of the 21,000 residents are African-American.</p><p>&quot;I&#39;m constantly trying to recruit African-Americans and other minorities,&quot; Jackson has said. &quot;But it&#39;s an uphill battle. The minority makeup of this police department is not where I want it to be.&quot;</p><p>Some of Jackson&#39;s actions in the wake of the shooting have drawn criticism, including his decision to announce that Brown was a suspect in the convenience store robbery, a move that stirred anger in Ferguson&#39;s black community.</p><p>___</p><p>ST. LOUIS COUNTY PROSECUTOR BOB MCCULLOCH</p><p>Since his election in 1991, Bob McCulloch has been the top prosecutor in St. Louis County. A Democrat with a reputation for being tough on crime, he comes from a law enforcement family. He was 12 when his father, a police officer, was shot and killed by a black suspect in 1964.</p><p>Some critics, including St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley, questioned McCulloch&#39;s ability to be objective in the Ferguson case. They wondered if the loss of his father in such circumstances creates a built-in bias.</p><p>___</p><p>MISSOURI STATE HIGHWAY PATROL CAPT. RON JOHNSON</p><p>During a 27-year career, Capt. Ron Johnson rose from patrolman to chief of the 11-county division of the Missouri State Highway Patrol that includes St. Louis and its suburbs.</p><p>Back in August, Gov. Jay Nixon appointed Johnson to take command of security in Ferguson. That decision came after complaints that authorities were too heavy-handed with protesters, when St. Louis County police were in charge.</p><p>Johnson&#39;s calm but commanding presence drew high praise from many observers. When Johnson, who is black, walked down the streets of Ferguson with protesters, many demonstrators shook his hand or posed for photos with him. He reminded locals of his Ferguson roots and suggested that he, too, had lessons to learn from the case.</p><p>&quot;We all ought to be thanking the Browns for Michael, because Michael&#39;s going to make it better for our sons, so they can be better black men,&quot; he said during public remarks in August.</p><p>He also apologized to Brown&#39;s family.</p><p>&quot;I wear this uniform, and I should stand up here and say that I&#39;m sorry,&quot; he said.</p><p>___</p><p>MISSOURI GOV. JAY NIXON</p><p>Events in Ferguson could have a significant effect on the political future of Gov. Jay Nixon, a 58-year-old Democrat.</p><p>His experience in confronting crime includes overseeing Missouri&#39;s long record of executions. During Nixon&#39;s four terms as attorney general and two terms as governor, Missouri has put 66 convicted killers to death, a total few states can match.</p><p>Nixon drew some criticism in the days immediately after the shooting for keeping a low profile, but he soon moved to the forefront, putting state police in charge of security and then calling in the National Guard to help quell the violence.</p><p>___</p><p>ATTORNEY BENJAMIN CRUMP</p><p>Benjamin Crump became a national figure when he represented the family of Trayvon Martin, the Florida teenager fatally shot by a neighborhood-watch organizer in 2012. Now he is back in the spotlight, representing Brown&#39;s family in another racially charged death.</p><p>Crump, 44, was born in North Carolina, one of nine children. Now based in Tallahassee, Florida, he seems to fight back his own emotions as he talks about the loss suffered by Brown&#39;s parents.</p><p>&quot;I don&#39;t want to sugarcoat it,&quot; Crump said in August. Brown &quot;was executed in broad daylight.&quot;</p><p>___</p><p>ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER</p><p>Almost from the outset, Attorney General Eric Holder showed a strong interest in Michael Brown&#39;s death.</p><p>Two days after the shooting, Holder said the case deserved a full review and dispatched a Justice Department team to Ferguson to try to calm tensions. The department soon launched its own civil rights investigation.</p><p>Holder ordered a federal medical examiner to perform a third autopsy on Brown and called the Brown family to express his condolences. He said aggressively pursuing these types of investigations is &quot;critical for preserving trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.&quot;</p></p> Mon, 24 Nov 2014 15:28:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/criminal-justice/key-figures-ferguson-missouri-shooting-111154