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Getting Away with Murder and Police Omerta

Don Rose 7 August 2018 No Comment

The odds are strong you can get away with murder in Chicago because barely one homicide in five is ever solved here in the murder capital of the nation (based on the raw numbers). There are many reasons why, with the police code of silence and miserable relations with the black and Latino communities prominent among them.

   For the first time in ages, however, there is a glimmer of reform on the horizon–but only a glimmer. Here’s a brief background:


The city of Chicago, personified by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, is struggling to finalize a consent decree on police reform. Because the Trump-Sessions Department of Justice abandoned issues of police reform, a devastating report resulting from an investigation by the Obama-Holder DOJ was foundering until Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan picked up the cudgel and sued the city demanding such a decree  be enforced by a federal court.

   A draft has been produced with some issues yet to be resolved, which then will be put up for public comments. Candidly, the document is flawed and the time allowed for the public input is too brief, but it does represent some progress–though Emanuel is dragging his feet and the police union doing all it can to kill it.

   One key to preventing killings is an improved rate of solving the crimes. Right now potential shooters know the odds are on their side so why not go with the odds?

   Which leads us to why the clearance rate is so low. First, the department needs many more detectives–particularly more detectives of color who can relate to the communities where most of the killings take place. Currently, according to Mary Mitchell of the Chicago Sun-Times, only 157 out of 1068 detectives are African American.

   With the long-standing hostility between the CPD and minority communities it’s no wonder people are loath to cooperate with white investigators who often represent a force as hostile as the gangs. Further, the department offers little if any incentive to solve those murders, especially in non-white neighborhoods.

    Mitchell recently quoted a mother whose son was killed in 2006 and the slaying still unsolved:

   “If detectives were looking at our children as human beings instead of trying to find out if they were involved in drugs and gangs, they would solve more cases. They don’t put out the effort…”

    The consent decree, if actually implemented, would focus on improving police-community relations–a tough job in this town, though it  has been done elsewhere.

   Still, the police complain about silence and a lack of cooperation in the communities while maintaining their own code of silence–“omerta” is the mob’s old term, others call it “the blue wall.” Emanuel publicly acknowledges it exists, but his police chief, Eddie Johnson, who has made some positive inroads in community relations, denies it.

   The code of silence gives the bad cops license for all forms of corruption and brutality, while it taints the overwhelming majority of decent ones. Until that is corrected police reform may remain mere words on a consent decree.

Don Rose is a regular columnist for the Chicago Daily Observer

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