When in Doubt, Blame the Cops

There’s plenty of blame to go around for the bloodshed in Chicago, but only one easy target

By Jim Glennon  |   Jan 3, 2017
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60 Minutes recently ran a 15-minute segment on the skyrocketing violence and astronomical number of murders over the last two years in the city of Chicago.

My dad was a Chicago cop. I was born in the City, lived in it until I was seven and still reside within its suburban borders, where I spent 30 years as a police officer. In other words, I’m more than well aware of what is happening a few miles from my front door.

The carnage—more than 4,000 shot and over 795 murdered—is a regular story in the media, but the bloodbath and slaughter does not garner the outrage and furor you would expect.

Chicago is the third largest populace city (2.719 million) in the United States. Los Angeles (3.884) has the second-largest population, behind New York (8.406). But combined, NYC and LA had fewer murders and shootings than Chicago did in 2016. More than 90% of the victims in the Windy City were African-American.

Reporting the Non-Story

60 Minutes bills itself as the most respected and revered news source. It enjoys a stellar reputation and has for the most part lived up to it, in my opinion. So I was looking forward to their take on what is happening in Chicago. I thought it might cover the gang issues, failed social programs, the demise of the family structure in inner cities, lack of education, corrupt politicians, and so forth.

And yet it touched on none of these. Instead it was a rant. Against whom? You guessed it: Chicago PD.

The majority of the segment addressed the drop in the number of self-initiated stops. And they are right about that: Proactivity has almost disappeared. The oft-maligned and almost universally misunderstood Terry Stops are down approximately 80%. Arrests are down by one-third.

As a fellow law enforcement officer wrote to me: “It was one of the most biased pieces of journalism I have seen in a long time. It minimized a court action whereby the ACLU had obtained an agreement to curb what they regard as racial profiling by forcing officers to fill out a two-page form whenever they stop and do a pat-down on a person.”

60 Minutes maligned the police immediately. While the program began with the number of shootings and murders, the moderator said to the audience, “but something new caught our attention,” as though they alone discovered a hidden statistical algorithm that was the culprit for the catastrophic violence.

They discovered that—police proactivity is down!

I hate to break it to 60 Minutes, but this isn’t a secret. It’s openly discussed and has been the subject of countless newspaper articles.

If you look to the Chicago Tribune over the last year, most of the politicians, pundits, academics and even the ACLU acknowledge the lack of proactivity, but deny there is a correlation between that and higher violence in the neighborhoods. In fact, most of those aforementioned people and groups are glad the stop-and-frisk numbers are down.

As my veteran friend said: “There was no mention of the Eric Holder/Loretta Lynch U.S. Dept of Justice civil rights investigation hovering over any action of a police officer. No blaming the criminals, the culture, the lack of parenting, the pandering of politicians, or the coddling of lawbreakers. In the eyes of the 60 Minutes reporter, it’s entirely the fault of the police.”

Police officers have been literally screaming that skewing stats, maligning the motivation of proactive cops, and reacting politically to video events will result in the emboldening of criminals and apprehensive police officers.

And who winds up suffering? Cops have that answer too: It will be the most vulnerable.

When the 60 Minutes crew noted that drug dealers were openly selling narcotics in full view of the cameras, this somehow was the fault of the police, too, even as narcotics-related crime is a driving force behind the spike in violence.

Police Must Be Dummies

I predicted two years ago, before Ferguson, in an article titled Stop Working, that this would happen: cops second-guessing themselves when it came to proactivity. And I said that the real result would be innocents victimized.

Now it’s happening and the cops are taking the blame. Not the pundits and the media for driving the ugly narrative about pervasive racism among the police ranks. Not the academics and the ACLU who, from a comfortable remove, explain away what is actually happening in the neighborhoods. Not the communities that have lost direction and the value and need for nuclear families.

Nope. It’s the cops’ fault.

My friend ended his email with a question that should bother everyone: “How are we vgoing to be able to recruit qualified police officers after seeing a segment like this?”

Conclusion

He’s right and it’s a scary thought. Cops are easy targets with few defenders. Defending cops doesn’t garner votes, ratings, or raise money. But this sort of story telling will have consequences. Don’t bother acting surprised when your local PD can’t hire enough or sufficiently qualified candidates.

And why act surprised and aghast when the cops learn that the public they are sworn to protect doesn’t want protection?

It all makes for thrilling television, I suppose, but only if you don’t live here.

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Jim Glennon
Lt. Jim Glennon (ret.) is the owner and lead instructor for Calibre Press. He is a third-generation LEO, retired from the Lombard, Ill. PD after 29 years of service. Rising to the rank of lieutenant, he commanded both patrol and the Investigations Unit. In 1998, he was selected as the first Commander of Investigations for the newly formed DuPage County Major Crimes (Homicide) Task Force. He has a BA in Psychology, a Masters in Law Enforcement Justice Administration, is the author of the book Arresting Communication: Essential Interaction Skills for Law Enforcement.