Too little, and too late?

Even as Mayor Rahm Emanuel announces new procedures to cut down the number of fatal shootings of police, both experts and data suggest the new measures will likely not be enough, the Chicago Tribune reports. Meanwhile, the Sun-Times raises questions about the quality of the evidence collection in the double shooting last weekend.  

When the police are accused of bad things….

The New York Times reports Wednesday that more officers across the country are being charged with crimes; but convictions prove “as elusive as ever.”   That is no news to anyone who has been paying attention (In Chicago: The acquittals of Glenn Evans and Dante Servin; in Baltimore, the mistrial of William Porter; in Philadelphia, the acquittal of six narcotics officers on corruption trials all serve as recent high-profile examples). Meanwhile in Chicago, the latest police shootings continues to reverberate. The Tribune reports that the officer who shot to death a 55-year old woman as well as a 19-year old man has told investigators he didn’t see the woman until after she was shot. Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who cut short his vacation to Cuba, is expected to announce new steps designed to give officers alternatives to using deadly force.

Can’t we be more like Iceland?

Here are some lessons we are learning the hard way:

There are too many instances of police shootings. The Washington Post has been keeping count: Almost 1,000 this year, and counting. Forty-one involved unarmed black men. Policemen too often have to make split-second decisions when they come upon situations, and determine if there are people, including themselves, at risk. Making that decision can be horrendously difficult; and a wrong decision can be lethal, either to themselves, innocent third parties, or to the suspects they encounter.

Chicago struggling to respond to too many split-second bad decisions

Thirty days of desk duty for any officers involved in shootings. Random spot-checks of dashboard cameras. A police superintendent who acknowledges the tragedy of a 55-year old mother of five who was shot and killed by police by accident. These measures at the Chicago police department come amidst the latest horrific news, the shooting of the woman and a mentally disturbed student wielding a baseball bat who lived upstairs. Neighbors and friends of the victims are asking questions echoed throughout the community: Is this how police serve and protect?

“You try to get help and you lose a loved one”

Police responding to domestic disturbance shoot and kill young man, 19, and a 55-year old woman who lived on the first floor of the flat. Asked the mother of the young man, who was suffering mental troubles and reportedly had been wielding a bat: “You call the police, you try to get help and you lose a loved one,” she said. “What are they trained for? Just to kill? I thought that we were supposed to get service and protection.

In-depth reporting in a new era

If you missed it, we recommended in #injusticereads a powerful article detailing the difficulty of rape prosecutions, centered around the wrongful conviction of a young woman who was criminally convicted based on allegations she had falsely claimed rape. The work was the product of Ken Armstrong and T. Christian Miller, two excellent reporters at, respectively, The Marshall Project and ProPublica. Now, a postscript: the editors of those sites explain how the project came to be, and it says a lot about the new world of journalism. In the old days, news organization were driven by competition, by being first, by getting “the scoop.” In the new days, as news organizations have shrunk their budgets and appetites for deep investigative projects, an increasing number of non-profits (including, of course, Injustice Watch) are sprouting up to fill the landscape.

What is the difference between an I-Phone and a Gun?

The answer may say a lot about investigations by the agency that reviews misconduct allegations by Chicago police, a Chicago Tribune article suggests. At issue: A former investigator contends his firing was because he concluded a fatal police shooting of an unarmed man was not justified. The video of the incident remains under wraps, at least for now.

Protests in Baltimore and Chicago

Police shootings not all equal; but politics clouds reviews in each

No doubt that the police shootings in Ferguson, Missouri; Cleveland, Ohio; and Chicago all have very different facts. But one thing that seems the same: In each, the prosecutors are faced not just with the details of what happened, but with politics in how and when the cases are handled. In Ferguson, the local prosecutor seemed to leave it up to a grand jury to decide whether to indict the officer in the shooting of Michael Brown, after an exhaustive grand jury in which legal experts contended the prosecutor aggressively questioned the testimony of its own witnesses. In Chicago, State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez has become the subject of sharp criticism for waiting a year to indict officer Jason Van Dyke in the shooting death of Laquan McDonald despite a video of the incident that was kept under wraps until a judge ordered its release last month. And now in Cleveland, the family of the victim appears at odds with the prosecutor,  who continues to release information that seems to telegraph that no indictment is likely against the officers who shot a teenager branding a toy gun.

The Most Segregated Urban Area in America

A dubious distinction:

Chicago turns out to be the most segregated urban area. Brookings Institution finds many different ways to examine inequity: Income disparities, housing patterns, concentration of poverty, danger of neighborhoods. Alas, all point to the Chicago area as a place horribly divided.