Saturday, October 24, 2015

TIME FOR OBAMA TO LOWER THE BOOM: Investigate Homan Square

Watch Superintendent McCarthy Welcome You to Chicago!
Well this is embarrassing . . . .

Barack Obama is scheduled to be in Chicago next week to address the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) at their annual conference.

When I woke up this morning, I thought that I would be writing about just one embarrassment: the urgent need for a Department of Justice investigation into the black site maintained by the Chicago Police Department at Homan Square.

But the first thing I saw when I opened the newspaper this morning is that FBI Director James B. Comey is now propounding a theory that increased scrutiny of police departments is leading to an increase in crime. (He said this at an event at the University of Chicago!) Comey says a "chill wind" has blown on police departments because they are being watched by the communities in which they operate to make sure cops don't break the law. (See "F.B.I. Chief Links Scrutiny of Police With Rise in Violent Crime" by Michael S. Schmidt and Matt Apuzzo in The New York Times.)

(Did I mention that the FBI is a part of the Department of Justice?)

Obama is a master of squaring the circle -- under other circumstances he could be expected to come to Chicago to deliver up a few elegant words to each constituency, leaving everybody to go away happy (or at least to go away asking, "what did he say?").  But this is one time he should avoid the temptation to do so. People feel a desperate need for the federal government to come out clearly and say whose side they're on.

The most valuable thing President Obama could do next week in Chicago is to announce -- with all due respect to CPD Chief McCarthy and Mayor Emanuel and the rest of the IACP host committee -- an expedited DOJ investigation into Homan Square.

Epilogue: Coverage of Obama's speech to the IACP confirmed everyone's worst fears: he stuck to saying things that would make the police chiefs in the audience happy. So: not a word about Homan Square. But did he have to throw the baby out with the bathwater? "I reject a story line that says, when it comes to public safety, there’s an ‘us’ and a ‘them,’" Obama said. (See "Obama Calls for Less Prison in Overhauling Sentencing Laws" by Michael D. Shear in The New York Times.) What about when "them" police are criminally liable?

Meanwhile, on Monday, the White House issued a statement disagreeing with Comey's statement. So does that mean a change will be coming at the FBI? See "The ‘Ferguson effect’ creates an ill-timed rift between the FBI and the White House" by Janell Ross in The Washington Post.

Update: December 2, 2015

Yesterday Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel fired Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy.

Today the New York Times called for a US Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation into the police shooting of Laquan McDonald.

Yes, the list of Chicago police abuses for the DOJ to investigate grows . . . .

Update: December 7, 2015

It's official: "Justice Dept. Plans to Investigate Chicago Police After Laquan McDonald Case" - The New York Times . . .

Critics have raised many questions. . . . Did Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s re-election fight play a role in his administration’s decision this year to pay $5 million to Mr. McDonald’s family members even before they filed a lawsuit? Why did City Hall include a provision in the settlement to keep the video private at least temporarily? And why did it take Anita Alvarez, the Cook County State’s Attorney, 13 months to charge the police officer involved in the shooting? She waited until hours before the city was forced to release the video to charge the officer, Jason Van Dyke, with first-degree murder.

Will the DOJ investigation just focus on the apparent political corruption? Or will it address the full range of CPD abuses?

Related posts

People around the world reading the exposé in The Guardian today about the thousands of (mostly African-American) people denied their rights while being detained at a secret Chicago Police Deparment location at Homan Square might wonder if anyone in Chicago is doing anything in an attempt to get control of the police.

(See CHICAGO: Twilight Zone? Constitution-Free Zone? (What's it look like to YOU?) )

We can't imagine that anti-racism work is just about specific police officers or even specific departments. Entire institutions of racist law enforcement need to be brought to heel in real time. It's a task worthy of a society-wide, national, federal effort. And it's top priority. No leader can ignore this reality . . . .

(See "If elected . . . ." (The Election 2016 and #BlackLivesMatter Nexus) )

A campaign exists to bring about a democratically-elected Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) in Chicago. The campaign would involve the people in electing the watchers of the police, and put the ultimate control of (and responsibility for) the police in the hands of the citizens of Chicago.

(See Does a Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) need to be part of a "new plan of Chicago"? )