Chicago has been plagued with gun violence and police corruption for years. Last year saw a total of 2,986 shooting victims and statistics from January 2016 show that Chicago is on pace to surpass that whopping figure this year. The month of January saw a total of 270 shooting victims and 51 murders, that’s up 75 percent from the same time period last year.
While Chicago’s deadly reputation continues to grip the city, police officers are targeting their blame at the American Civil Liberties Union, the Chicago Sun-Times reported Sunday. Street cops in Chicago are calling it the “ACLU effect,” referring to the agreement made between the Chicago Police Department and the Illinois ACLU chapter to monitor police stops more closely. This pact, according to police officers, is pushing cops to stop policing for fear of losing their jobs, leaving the streets to the criminals and causing dramatic spikes in violence throughout the city.
Under the new agreement, officers are required to submit detailed two-page reports instead of the previous one-page reports on any stop of a citizen, even simple traffic violations. Those reports are then reviewed by a retired federal judge to ensure that the stops were conducted in accordance with the constitution. The new requirements went into effect on Jan. 1 and to no one’s surprise, officers completed 79 percent fewer contact cards in January 2016 than over the same period last year.
This reluctance to make stops, according to one anonymous sergeant cited by the Sun-Times, is directly influenced by the increased scrutiny placed on Chicago police officers. Officers now fear being punished or losing their jobs for making stops that may later be deemed illegal. That fear, according to many officers, has resulted in a unsettling spike in violence across the city as police presence diminishes in areas that need it most.
“We’re avoiding all the gray areas,” the sergeant told the Sun-Times.
The police department and ACLU officials, however, contend that there is no link between the increased scrutiny on police and the rash of unprecedented violence that took place throughout January. Karen Sheley, director of police practices for the Illinois chapter of the ACLU, said that the drop in “invasive” stops is a good thing and has nothing to do with the city’s increased violence so far this year. According to the Chicago Police Department the violence seen in the first month of 2016 was caused by gang conflicts and retaliatory spats. Interim Police Superintendent John Escalante said, “Chicagoans should know that detectives are making progress in January’s investigations and have already solved 14 murder cases this month.”
It seems that there is a rift between officers on the street and city officials trying to present an image of progress for a city burdened with an unprecedented amount of violence. Regardless of who or what is to blame for the spike in violence, 51 people have lost their lives in the city’s seemingly endless struggle to keep the peace.