“The City that Works”, “the Velvet City”, “the Windy City”, “the Second City”, “the Heart of America” – regardless of whatever you decide to call it, Chicago is one of the most important cities in the United States. It is one of the largest American cities in terms of population, wealth, and even culture. Many know Chicago for the iconic baseball feud between the Chicago Cubs and White Sox (which together hold six World Series). But Chicago also is rich in landmarks, theaters, and universities; from Millennium Park and Navy Pier, to Broadway-esque productions, to Northwestern University and the University of Chicago at Illinois. People of all races make up the population of Chicago, with a racial composition of 45% White, 32.9% African American, 28.9% Hispanic or Latino, 5.5% Asian, and the rest of multiple/another race. (2010 Census). With this good in mind, it also is necessary to recognize some bad, including an ever so rapidly raising crime rate and the problems that come along with it. One of the largest future concerns of the governing bodies of Chicago is the growing problem of racism, profiling, and police brutality.
I. Exploring the Issue
What is Police Brutality?
After researching and compiling many dictionaries and articles into one simple definition, “Police Brutality” is widely considered the use of excessive and/or unnecessary force in civilian dealings. Unfortunately, most of society typically believes that Police Brutality only comes in the form of physical violence, but that isn’t the case. It is important to recognize that any situation in which the police officers uses any form of unnecessary force, from weapons to words, is strictly prohibited.
Isn’t that vague?
Yes, but the judiciary branch has established certain legal precedents to help clarity. Specifically, the Supreme Court has ruled that lethal force can only be used during an arrest (this is obviously separate from a direct weapons fight between police and criminals), if 1) it is necessary to prevent an escape, and 2) the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious injury to the officers themselves or other civilians.
What are the levels of force?
1. Physical Presence (mere officer presence)
2. Verbalization (verbal statements, including requests and orders)
3. Empty-hands Control (bodily force, such as grabs, holds, punches, and kicks)
4. Less Lethal Weapons (weapons such as a baton, chemical spray, taser, or dog)
5. Lethal Force (lethal weapons such as firearms)
The judiciary branch uses this as a guideline to use the appropriate level of force in dealing with the situation and only to escalate as a direct response to the suspect/criminal’s actions.
What is the Punishment?
Any accusation of Police Brutality is often treated as a serious offense and normally heavily investigated. The officer accused will usually temporarily be suspended of firearm usage and in-field policing. Ideally, the situation will further be investigated by the district attorney. The punishments will escalate from simple restrictions to possible suspension or being fired all-together. However, the likelihood of a full investigation actually occurring and convicting an officer with a fitting punishment isn’t so high. In fact, according to publish.illinois.edu:
“In Chicago there were approximately 17,700 complaints against police. Approximately half of those were race-based. Only 800 of those were actually deemed worthy enough to be looked at, and out of those 800, only 45% of the officers involved were given a “reprimand,” 37% suspended (however 75% of those suspensions were five days or less), and the rest all resigned on their own, not wanting to face the consequences.”
Quick Check! Ready for a quiz?
II. The Issue in a Location
Police Brutality is an issue that is rapidly increasing all across the United States, but the city of Chicago has been experiencing a very significant spike we must work to resolve. In fact, the racial profiling and brutality within the Chicago Police Department was so intense, that the Department of Justice opened in investigation inoto the matter that continued for 13 months and ended just this January.
Exploring the Report
After reading key sections of the report myself, there are some key sections to be raised:
“Nonetheless, we found reasonable cause to believe that CPD (Chicago Police Department) has engaged in a pattern or practice of unreasonable force in violation of the Fourth Amendment and that the deficiencies in CPD’s training, supervision, accountability, and other systems have contributed to that pattern or practice.”
“CPD’s pattern or practice of unreasonable force includes shooting at fleeting suspects who present no immediate threat.” (Remember the two required attributes from earlier?)
“CPD’s pattern or practice of unreasonable force includes the use of excessive less-lethal force against people who present no threat.”
“CPD does not require officers to accurately report uses of less-lethal force.”
“CPD rarely reviews or investigates officers’ use of less-lethal force.”
These parts are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Chicago’s Police Department. (If you want to learn the whole iceberg then follow this link: https://www.justice.gov/opa/file/925846/download) But from these things we can extract certain aspect that we need to keep in consideration when taking steps forward as a citizenry in response to improper government. But of all, accountability/clarity are most important. A major part of the source of this brutality stems from a lack of sufficient accountability and clarity in the Police Department’s affairs. In fact, when the Justice Department attempted to retrieve records (like a list of all weapon discharges), it was found to be “inaccurate and incomplete.” One of the department’s biggest problems was allowing officers to not report incidents and have them recorded for further investigation, which allowed them to become invisible problems. Furthermore, as a citizenry, a major part of the brutality is not lethal firearms, but in the category of less lethal weapons (such as batons or chemical sprays). Because of a misinformed citizenry believing that only actually lethal discharge is considered brutality, these incidents have been slipping under the radar and thus are allowed to grow in magnitude and frequency.
Why should you care?
The trends are fact, not speculation. You should care about every individual being treated in this manner any being forgotten, allowing this violence to ultimately become invisible to the larger population. In instances like these, by ignored the proven fact, you are ultimately being complicit in this violence. Imagine you getting wrongfully accused by an officer and while you cooperate, the officer decides to pummel you with a baton, or spray chemicals into your eyes. While you may be in denial of this happening to you, it is very possible and happens all around the United States. Your time is now to help us in the movement against this rising injustice and preserve the American justice and freedom that every person deserves.
III. Catalyzing Change
The app presented below was created by me in order to help this movement regardless of your location. It includes basic resources for getting active, a small gallery, critical research, and more helpful resources. Below is an embedded preview, go ahead and try it out! Also, if you navigate to the more tab there is a feedback option. Feedback would greatly be appreciated!
The strategy to catalyze change uses the app as a means of education, awareness, and involvement. The first step to successful change requires people that understand the problem and every aspect of it. Using this app hopefully will allow the user to gain any knowledge around the concepts of police brutality and to learn of methods of involvement. Usage of the app should empower any individual to easily get involved in this activism.
In our current political climate, the nation is and will be divided in the future. Because of this, it is every so important that each and every activist is educated on the topic in a manner that shows a smart and necessary movement. Without this, progress can never be achieved. A larger cataclysmic strategy simply uses this app as a mobile stepping-stone to help any activist understand the topic and get heard. It will promote a wider recognition and understanding of the problem and earn a more grounded base for protests, while also radiating a sense of duty that is to be respect from all sides.
How can you get active?
Creating networks of awareness is important. For every 20 people that may look at this page, only 1 might actually get active in one way or another. BE THAT ONE! Being a grave help doesn’t always mean flying out to protest in harsh conditions, but it can start by simply sharing information. Simply sharing this page with a few friends or on social media would be an example of a way to get involved now! Or possible use what you’ve learned from this page and engage in dialogues with those that haven’t learned as much. Any form of this helps to create a network that is prepared to fight this issue.
Look for local protests first.
While Police Brutality is a rapidly increasing epidemic in Chicago (and that’s what this page is about), it doesn’t mean you should book a flight for next thing in the morning. First it is important to understanding what protesting is, especially if this is your first time. Engage in local protests, whether its marching by your City Hall or simply engaging in dialogues with officials. Either way, preparing on a local stage will help you succeed and be comfortable in the future.
If you’ve experienced/witness an incident of brutality:
Don’t watch and forget! Do something! Taking video recording is an extremely useful tool in the investigation of any incident. Also, don’t forget about it, file complaints. Even if legal action in this method doesn’t always succeed, that’s not an excuse for not trying. Taking these actions can help later on in the fight against Police Brutality.
IV. Sources/Further Reading
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