Lies, Damn Lies and Chicago Police Reports
April 10, 2014 2:43 PM   Subscribe

The Chicago Police Department reported 415 Murders in 2013, the lowest number since 1965 . However, there were at least 18 deaths that according to Chicago Magazine, should have been classified as murders, but were not. The CPD has issued a response, however an interview with the mother of one of the unreported murders seems to support the Chicago Magazine article. posted by Hactar (23 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Additional suspicion has been placed on the CPD, as an audit has shown that they did not report approximately one quarter of all assaults in 2012.

This number is almost certainly optimistic, since it's only based on assaults that have written reports to begin with. When I filed a report of an assault with the CPD I was hung up on, told that they would not accept a report without a specific street address (the assault I was trying to report happened in a park, away from any street numbers, leaving me to chose between not filing the report and illegally filing a false report with a made-up address), and told that I should not file a report because they (CPD) would not do anything about it anyway. I'm sure many people give up along the way.
posted by enn at 2:56 PM on April 10, 2014 [7 favorites]

Can't read the Chicago Tribune article without registration.
posted by overhauser at 3:33 PM on April 10, 2014

The Trib links work fine for me.

CPD. Such a fine tradition of corruption and horror!
posted by rtha at 3:54 PM on April 10, 2014

The fine folks at HeyJackass have the 2013 number at 453, or 38 higher than the official CPD number.

With that said, the Chicago murder trend is most definitely down, and has been inching down for years, but, not as fast as say, New York or Philadelphia or even New Orleans.

Rick Nevin, of course, would blame the lead
posted by The Giant Squid at 3:55 PM on April 10, 2014

Did anyone actually read through the CPD response? It's extensive and I think you can't really in good conscience just dismiss the entire thing with a "CPD is corrupt" handwave and a reference to a single case. Especially since it's possible to view the same facts or events from different perspectives and have good faith differences of opinion as to what it all means.
posted by kavasa at 4:16 PM on April 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Welcome to the Dali-esque world of Chicago crime reporting.

I initially read this as "Welcome to the Daley-esque world of Chicago crime reporting," which, well...
posted by Westringia F. at 4:18 PM on April 10, 2014 [5 favorites]

I think Chiraq is what the kiddies are calling it these days.
posted by cashman at 4:26 PM on April 10, 2014

I can't even fathom why a police force that openly harbors torturers and tries to let the former mayor's nephew get away with murder would give a shit about its stats. If they fudged the numbers it was to please the mayor because they sure as hell don't give fuck.
posted by srboisvert at 4:33 PM on April 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

Stupid question: Why is the murder rate considered a measure of a city's police department?

Isn't it more a measure of an education system, drug laws, the economy, welfare, social services and urban design?
posted by cacofonie at 5:15 PM on April 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

"Chiraq" doesn't really capture the complexity of the situation. There is tremendous disparity in the homicide rate in different neighborhoods. Nearly half of police districts had no homicides in 2012, but the highest-crime areas have gotten worse.

posted by mai at 5:17 PM on April 10, 2014

Oops, I misremembered the statistic. It was that 34% of police districts averaged less than 1 homicide per year from 2011-2013.

posted by mai at 5:28 PM on April 10, 2014

> Did anyone actually read through the CPD response?

I did, and I found it completely unconvincing. The CPD response takes issue with Chicago's reportage, but does little to support its claims. For instance, CPD points out that the article appears to be picking-and-choosing whether or not the medical examiner's findings should determine homicide classification (cf the "doublepseak" section) without ever addressing the fact that they too are inconsistent in it. If the CPD indeed believes that "not only is it acceptable to use such scientific information in classifying a case, doing anything to the contrary would be illogical," then one would expect they would have classified Groves as a homicide, just as they did in deciding Jones was a non-homicide. Yet they do not address this inconsistency at all, let alone provide any sort of rationale for why the ME reports had different influences in the two cases.

And then there's this --
But they still had to wrap up the battery case. They declared it solved, reporting that they knew what had happened, knew who beat up Harris, and had enough evidence to "support an arrest, charge, and [turn] over to the court for prosecution." But because the victim was dead and "there is no complaining witness to aid in the prosecution," there was no reason to move forward. Harris's attackers were therefore never apprehended. [CPD quoting Chicago Mag]
  • Under state law someone cannot be prosecuted for a battery if the victim is deceased. That is not CPD policy.
-- which not only doesn't address the underlying issue of batterers/murderers going free, but also suggests that one can get away with murder if one beats a 57-year-old to within an inch of his life such that a pulmonary embolism does him in a week later.

In fact, not only did the CPD's response not improve my opinion of them, it actually made it worse. As a public agency that is (theoretically) accountable to the people, the CPD has an obligation to justify their actions with clear, cogent explanations. Yet instead of laying bare their decision-making process, they expend a lot of ink attacking the Chicago article with snarky logical fallacies ("What Chicago Magazine source would have ... had knowledge of a purported intimate conversation that never existed? No one, obviously.").

I can't say I'm impressed.
posted by Westringia F. at 5:53 PM on April 10, 2014 [5 favorites]

No mention yet of juking the stats?
posted by KGMoney at 6:34 PM on April 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Westringia, I'm going to bed so can't really talk at length, but it's worth keeping in mind that homicide and murder are two different things. The CPD response states that they consider the Groves case suspicious but can't prove murder. Inability to prove a case sometimes is a price we pay to live in a society where we limit police power.

My broader point is that most of the responses in this thread haven't really engaged with any of the linked material: they consider CPD corrupt and don't feel any need to think critically about allegations or defenses against them, since they already know what side they're on coming in.
posted by kavasa at 6:43 PM on April 10, 2014

When I was pickpocketed on the State street subway after the Cortex World Tour Chicago Meetup, when I called the Chicago Police Department to report it and get a police report number for the bank, the cop kept asking "did you SEE the wallet being pickpocketed? No? Then you LOST your wallet, see?" Despite me having evidence that about $400 worth of charges were made on my cards before we even got off the train.

Asshats, all of them. (The cops I dealt with, not the Mefites.)
posted by pjern at 7:02 PM on April 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

My favorite from the "rebuttal":

Original Article: (A recent Tribune analysis listed 7,078 beat cops on the streets, 10 percent fewer than in 2011.)

"Rebuttal": CPD currently has more police officers on its payroll today than it did at the end of 2011:
January 1, 2014: 9,718 Police Officers
December 1, 2011: 9,496 Police Officers

It's almost as if they missed those key modifiers--beat cops on the street--and quoted their completely-irrelevant entire payroll on purpose. But then, the CPD would never fudge numbers that way.
posted by Dr.Enormous at 7:34 PM on April 10, 2014

The Groves case doesn't appear to be a matter of murder vs. homicide, but rather a matter of criminal vs. noncriminal death. The Chicago article stated "On [December 18], the police report indicates, a lieutenant overseeing the Groves case reclassified the homicide investigation as a noncriminal death investigation." In response, CPD says they "do not have enough information to prove that her death was a murder and to classify it as such," but they don't address at all Chicago's claims that the case is not even being investigated as a homicide!

In fact, throughout the entire CPD response, wherever the Chicago article described cases being downgraded from homicide, the CPD justified their actions by discussing the cases in terms of murder (which -- as I understand it, and IANAL -- has the additional criterion of intent to kill). Just page search in the response piece for "homicide" -- it's startlingly consistent. They shift the language without explanation, and they do so in a way that both makes them look more reasonable (by changing the criteria) and allows them to avoid addressing the allegations in the article clearly & cogently.

This is exactly the sort of dissembling that left me even less impressed with the CPD than I was before. It's classic goal-post shifting. Worse, it's goal-post shifting by an agency that is supposed to be accountable to the people. kavasa, you assert that people in this thread think poorly of the CPD because they haven't given them a fair hearing, but frankly the CPD's own response does far more to reinforce the perception of CPD corruption than to counter it.
posted by Westringia F. at 7:51 PM on April 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Stupid question: Why is the murder rate considered a measure of a city's police department?

Particularly when it is really more of a measure of shooting accuracy.
posted by srboisvert at 8:04 PM on April 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

> Why is the murder rate considered a measure of a city's police department? Isn't it more a measure of an education system, drug laws, the economy, welfare, social services and urban design?

Well, here in Chicago we've eliminated those other determinants of the murder rate, like education. And on the schools that still exist, we've now mandated the posting of this lovely no-reading-required no-guns placard on all school doors, which should hold us over until we eliminate the education system for good.
posted by Westringia F. at 8:33 PM on April 10, 2014

The Groves case doesn't appear to be a matter of murder vs. homicide, but rather a matter of criminal vs. noncriminal death.
Those are the same thing for the purposes of the discussion.

If the ME writes "homicide," she means "this human was killed by another human". If that killing was criminal, then it's murder. If it was non-criminal, it's not murder, but is still homicide.

Whether a death was a homicide or not isn't a call the cops get to make, that's entirely up to the ME and what she writes on the death certificate. If the ME rules that someone died from a pre-existing condition, that doesn't make it impossible to charge someone with murder, but it certainly makes it difficult. Police and prosecutors decide all the time that their case isn't good enough to charge.

When I was reading through it I was surprised they didn't state all of that explicitly, but it's hard to see that as a malicious mistake when it would strengthen their case. I do agree that the snarky tone isn't helping their image, but it doesn't affect any of their assertions of fact.

Dr. Enormous: the special units the CPD mentioned are definitely cops on the streets. "Impact Zones" are probably areas where extra patrols are assigned, for example. Officers on the street as part of training are sworn officers in the final part of their training and are, in fact, cops on the street. Etc. Those are legitimate problems with the Chicago magazine piece. I don't necessarily think it's deliberate - I'm not sure how the magazine reporters would know about area saturation teams or how many cops are on them - but their numbers are still going to be wrong, and that means those numbers aren't good evidence for the conclusions they're drawing.

It also seems to me that the Chicago magazine reporters have no good response to the CPD explanation of change in reporting to conform to UCR guidelines. And I notice that no one has brought that up. No one has brought up the assertion that CPD hasn't tracked expressway deaths for decades.
kavasa, you assert that people in this thread think poorly of the CPD because they haven't given them a fair hearing
Sort of? But not exactly. I think there's a well-known phenomenon where humans - all humans - are more likely to accept without question information that confirms are pre-existing beliefs. We're also more likely to think critically and skeptically about information that challenges those beliefs. There may very well be serious problems with CPD, but the Chicago magazine article seems to me to be a case of some mistakes and some slanting and honestly just isn't very good evidence for those problems with CPD.

I'm honestly pretty curious about the allegation about threatening the superintendent's job, which CPD asserts is simply a lie. Simple lies are honestly kind of rare, or at least I'd hope they are, for both police and reporters. Both groups depend upon a reputation for honesty and integrity to effectively do their job. Of course there's no way for us to know which of the two is actually lying here, which is why I would mentally strike it from the evidence column for both.
posted by kavasa at 4:39 AM on April 11, 2014

It's true that I have a pre-existing belief that the Chicago PD is a deeply corrupt and violent organization. It's been that for decades, and there has been investigation upon cover-up upon wrist-slap upon investigation, and so am I impressed that CPD found a thing to nitpick in the Chicago Magazine piece? No. They have zero credibility.
posted by rtha at 5:41 AM on April 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's like nobody on this damn planet is aware of Campbell's Law.
posted by aramaic at 7:44 AM on April 11, 2014

It's been an ongoing thing on Second City Cop. too. You want hear about any juking the stats, look at comments on posts tagged stats. An eye opener. But this is definitely a thing where reading the comments is done at your own peril.

I feel dirty just linking to SSC
posted by readery at 8:25 AM on April 11, 2014

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