An autopsy tells a story. The genre is mystery: a narrative set in motion by a corpse. The pathologist-narrator investigates the cause of death in precise, descriptive prose that ultimately allows the dead to testify about what happened to them. In the case of Laquan McDonald, a 17-year-old black youth killed by Chicago police on Oct. 20, 2014, the autopsy raises questions not only about how he died, but about how the Chicago Police Department has handled the case since. While it does not provide all the details of what transpired that night, the autopsy makes one thing clear: The account of the incident given by the police cannot be true.Read More
University of Chicago Law School
Friday–Saturday, April 24–25
The aim of the Youth/Police Conference is to deepen the discourse about issues arising from interactions between African-American youth and police in urban America. We began planning this occasion before events in Ferguson, New York, and Cleveland put these issues at the center of a national conversation. We hope to enrich that conversation by drawing on the experiences and perspectives of African-American youth in framing the issues and themes to be addressed.
The Conference grows out of a collaborative project, developed by the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic of the University of Chicago Law School and the Invisible Institute, that focuses on everyday encounters--on the countless interactions between teenagers and police that take place daily in cities across the country. Our methodology has been simple. We have talked extensively with Chicago inner city youth. And we have listened. We have avoided conventional policy frames –e.g., “stop and frisk” – and instead have asked the teenagers we work with to describe their encounters with the police in their own words, to tell us how those encounters make them feel, and to reflect on how their experiences with the police shape their behavior.
We have learned a great deal. The students have challenged us and unsettled our thinking about accepted practices, opening fresh lines of inquiry. We see the conference as an occasion for enlarging the conversation. It will be a two day event, comprised of six panels, to which we are inviting scholars, police officials, students, policymakers, advocates, judges, and others with relevant experience and expertise.
Each panel will begin with a short video, multimedia piece, or performance prepared for the conference in collaboration with the high school students involved in the project. A moderated public conversation among three to four panelists will explore questions and issues raised by the introductory material. There will be significant interplay with the audience. Unlike the traditional academic conference, we are not asking speakers to present a formal talk or paper. Our conversations will be the essence of the event. We see the individual panels as part of a continuing conversation and will orchestrate them so that each builds on what comes before.
The panels will be moderated by Steve Edwards, Executive Director of the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago and a former NPR host, and Jamie Kalven of the Invisible Institute.
“How Youth See Police. How Police See Youth.”
Countless interactions occur daily in urban America between Black youth and police. An encounter between a police officer engaged in a legitimate investigative mission and a teen innocent of any wrongdoing can be fraught. It can go wrong in a variety of ways, often with major consequences for the individuals involved and for community-police relations. What do these encounters look and feel like? How are they experienced by youth? How are they experienced by police? How do they shape the ways each sees the other?
“How it Makes Me Feel—Youth.”
How do these encounters, and the contexts in which they occur, shape the attitudes and identities of African-American youth—the way they see themselves and their place in the world? How do these encounters affect their orientation toward law enforcement? How do these encounters affect their personal development and their ability to navigate public space?
“How it Makes Me Feel—Police.”
Every day we put police officers in what often feels like an impossible situation: Get gangs, guns, and drugs off our streets. Keep us safe from violence. At the same time, there is widespread criticism of the practice of stopping and searching Black youth as a crime-fighting tactic. How do police experience this apparent catch 22? How do youth/police encounters impact law enforcement?
“They Have All the Power.”
Why does police accountability matter in this context? How does the knowledge that severe abuses – brutality, sexual assault, false arrest, even death – have gone unpunished inform and shape even civil, uneventful encounters? What are the costs and harms of the absence of accountability? How does the lack of accountability affect the relationships between youth and police? How does it impact our effectiveness in addressing crime and violence? How could improved transparency and accountability affect youth/police relations?
“I Can’t Imagine Anything Different. ”
Many view strained relations between police and minority youth as difficult if not impossible to change. They see the status quo as intractable. What is the impact of such attitudes? Is there reason to believe that relations can improve? What do constructive youth/police relations look like? How can police and youth work together to build better relationships?
“Where Do We Go From Here?”
The final panel, in which all panelists and the audience will participate, will be devoted to a discussion of next steps and prescriptive strategies for addressing the issues explored in the course of the conference.
We hope you will join us in this critically important conversation.
On December 23rd, the National Public Radio website featured a photo essay on the fate of Chicago's high-rise public housing. Designed by our former colleague David Eads and Helga Salinas of NPR, the essay is composed of photographs by Patricia Evans of the Invisible Institute. Here is their evocation of a lost world.
Steve Miller, “U of C Prof Wants Chicago Police to Release Squad Car Video of Fatal Shooting by Officers,” WBBM Radio, December 8, 2014
Claire Bushey, “If Chicago police have video of teen shooting, let’s see it: advocates,” Crain’s Chicago Business, December 9, 2014
Joseph Erbentraut, “Chicago police fatally shot a teen in October. Now some are calling for department to release video,” HuffingtonPost, December 9, 2014
Mary Mitchell, “Questions surround a Chicago Police fatal shooting of a teen,” Chicago Sun-Times, December 10, 2014
WBEZ, “What happened in the police shooting of 17-year old Laquan McDonald?” The Afternoon Shift, December 11, 2014
Don Rose, “Coverup? Chicago Police Questioned About Another Death,” Chicago Daily Observer, December 23, 2014.
Natacha Tatu, “Permis de tuer,” Le Nouvel Observateur, December 24, 2014
Jean Cochrane, “Sketches from the UCPD community forum," South Side Weekly, November 4, 2014
Sam Cholke, “University of Chicago Police accused or racial profiling,” DNAinfo, October 30, 2014
Tamar Honig, “Students recount racial bias of UCPD,” The Chicago Maroon, October 31, 2014
Michael Scott, letter to the editor, Hyde Park Herald, November 4, 2014
Lindsay Welbers, "Residents vent worries about University of Chicago police, share fears that they’re targeting minority teens,” Hyde Park Herald, November 5, 2014
Ellen Mayer, “Campus police: real deal or rent-a-cops?” Curious City, WBEZ, November 5, 2014
Lee Edwards, “Community calls meeting to address University of Chicago Police Department Conduct,” Chicago Citizen Weekly, November 6, 2014.
Hannah K. Gold, “Why does a campus police department have jurisdiction over 65,000 Chicago residents?” Vice, November 12, 2014.
Seven weeks ago, a familiar story was reported in Chicago media: a young black man was killed by the police. His name was Laquan McDonald. He was 17 years old.Read More
The invitation to participate in this symposium has given me occasion to brood about questions arising from my immersion for more than a decade in Chicago’s high-rise public housing during its final chapter—specifically, in the community of Stateway Gardens, eight square blocks of the South Side.Read More
Remarks by Jamie Kalven at Forum on Police Accountability, hosted by the Chicago Council of Lawyers and American Constitution Society, on September 30, 2014. Kalven followed a presentation by Scott Ando, the Chief Administrator of the Independent Police Review Authority, the City agency that investigates excessive force complaints.
We stand at an historic threshold in the campaign for police accountability. The Kalven decision and the policies adopted by the Emanuel administration to implement it have created the conditions for unprecedented transparency with respect to documents bearing on allegations of police abuse.
At the same time, events in Ferguson, Missouri, have reminded us, if we needed reminding, that the issue of police accountability is at the center of the contemporary civil rights agenda. This is not an issue among other issues. It bears on the essential nature of our society. As a friend once observed, “In a democracy, there is nothing like a good cop, and there is nothing like a bad cop.”Read More
Futterman, Kalven, Loevy, Taylor, “Police abuse allegations finally go public,” Chicago Sun-Times, July 18, 2014
Frank Main, “City won't fight to keep citizen complaints against cops secret,” Chicago Sun-Times, July 11, 2014
Rosemary Regina Sobol, “City to release files on alleged police misconduct,” Chicago Tribune, July 13, 2014
Associated Press, “City of Chicago to make police misconduct investigation files public,” July 13, 2014
“Witchhunt on the Way,” Second City Cop (police blog), July 13, 2014
Comments on Second City Cop blog post, July 13, 2014
City of Chicago press release, “City of Chicago Opens Police Misconduct Files to the Public to Increase Transparency, Accountability,” July 14, 2014
Chuck Sudo, “City to Make Police Misconduct Files Public,” Chicagoist, July 14, 2014
Don Babwin, “Chicago’s Police Misconduct Policy Praised,” ABC News, July 14, 2014
Editorial, “Prying open police misconduct files,” Chicago Tribune, July 14, 2014
Editorial, “A welcome ray of sunlight at the Police Department,” Chicago Sun-Times, July 21, 2014
Rui Kaneya, “How an activist journalist’s commitment to a poor community led to a big FOIA win,” Columbia Journalism Review, July 22, 2014
Don Rose, “Cracking the Code of Silence,” Chicago Daily Observer, July 29, 2014
Frank Main, “List shows two convicted cops were topic of dozens of complaints,” Sun-Times, July 30, 2014
Jeremy Gorner and Anne Sweeney, “Cops in SOS unit amassed citizens complaints,” Chicago Tribune, July 30, 2014
ABC, “Chicago police misconduct files made public,” July 30, 2014
WGN, “Cops in SOS unit amassed citizen complaints,” July 31, 2014
Sam Cholke, “Police Upset After Hyde Park Journalist Publishes Complaints: Union Chief,” DNAinfo.com, August 1, 2014
WTTW, “City Releases Data on Complaints Against Police,” Chicago Tonight, August 6, 2014
Yesterday the City of Chicago provided me with the first batch of documents at issue in the recently settled freedom of information case, Kalven v. Chicago. I immediately uploaded them to the Invisible Institute website where they are now universally available. After seven years of litigation during which the Kalven legal team argued that documents of this nature are public, it gives me deep satisfaction today to complete the process of making them so.
The effort to secure these documents began in 2007. They had been produced by the City under a protective order in Bond v. Utreras, a federal civil rights case that arose out of my reporting from Stateway Gardens, a high-rise public housing development that has since been demolished. I intervened in the case and requested that the protective order be lifted so the documents could be made public. Judge Joan Lefkow ruled in my favor. The City appealed. Ultimately, it prevailed in the United States Court of Appeals in 2009.
I then sought the same documents--as well as additional documents produced in another civil rights case, Moore v. Chicago--under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act. On March 10 of this year, the Illinois appellate court held in Kalven v. Chicago that documents bearing on allegations of police abuse are public information. On July 11, the Emanuel administration announced it would not appeal Kalven and outlined the procedures it has adopted to implement the decision.
The documents I received today from the City are lists, covering the period 2001 to 2008, of Chicago police officers who accumulated repeated complaints of abuse. By releasing these lists, the Emanuel administration has taken a significant step away from the City's long history of reflexively asserting official secrecy and thereby frustrating the possibility of meaningful police reform.
There are five "repeater lists":
- List of 662 Chicago police officers with more than ten misconduct complaints between May 2001 and May 2006, produced by the City in the course of civil discovery in Bond v. Utreras.
- List of officers with more than ten complaints between 2001 and 2006 who at any time during that period were assigned to Public Housing South (Unit 715), produced by the City in Bond v. Utreras.
- List of officers with more than ten complaints between 2001 and 2006 who participated in any of the Chicago Police Department's "early intervention" programs, produced by the City in Bond v. Utreras.*
- List of Chicago police officers with more than five misconduct complaints from May 2002 to December 2008, produced by the City in Moore v. Chicago.
- List of Chicago police officers with more than five excessive force complaints from May 2002 to December 2008, produced by the City in Moore v. Chicago.
The Bond lists were the focus of intense public interest in 2007, when the City sought a stay of Judge Lefkow's order pending appeal. A headline in the Chicago Sun-Times asked: "What Are They Hiding?"
The answer, seven years later, is that they were hiding the names of the officers on these lists. Now those names are public. What follows from this? Why does it matter?
Although six years have passed since the most recent complaints covered, the lists retain great currency. In combination with other information in the public domain, they will reveal patterns of alleged police criminality and raise questions about why the department didn't identify those patterns and intervene to address them. They are, in short, of great diagnostic value for the purpose of assessing the City's systems for investigating and disciplining police misconduct.
The lists will also disclose officers with large numbers of complaints who remain on the force, working in Chicago neighborhoods and continuing to amass complaints for the same patterns of abuse.
And for those falsely incarcerated due to abusive police practices, the lists will in some instances provide a tool to challenge their convictions.
For far too long, the City has failed to connect the dots--to analyze the wealth of data represented by citizen complaints for the purpose of identifying and investigating patterns of abuse within the department. With the release of the lists, the public now has greater leverage to demand that the City do such pattern analysis.
The long legal effort to make these lists public has rested on a fundamental principle: police officers are public officials vested with extraordinary powers. In our democracy, power demands accountability. It is precisely because of the critical role they play in our society that the police must be held to high standards of accountability and must, like other public officials, sometimes endure public criticism they feel is unfair.
I have heard from officers who are distressed that their inclusion on a repeater list publicly brands them as "rogue cops." I have no doubt the lists include honorable, effective officers. They also include criminals with badges who have been able to operate with impunity and do great harm to those they are sworn to protect and to their department, because of the deficiencies of the City's system for investigating complaints of police abuse.
One example among many: a group of Special Operations Section officers engaged for a period of years in a pattern of falsely arresting, illegally searching, and robbing people. A recent analysis of CPD data in Padilla v. Chicago demonstrated that the probability of any of those officers facing discipline as a result of the many complaints filed against them alleging such crimes was less than one in a thousand.
As Judge Lefkow observed in Bond, the public can be trusted to recognize that complaints of police abuse are allegations and not proof of wrongdoing. The real problem resides not with transparency but with the City's broken disciplinary system. The solution is not for the police to cling to a veil of secrecy unworthy of their critical role in our society. It is to demand a more rigorous and credible accountability regime, so that a finding of "not sustained" or "exonerated" actually means something.
The Legal Team
Although I am privileged to have my name linked to Kalven v. Chicago and the principle it affirms, the decision is really the achievement of a remarkable collaborative effort by lawyers and law students over the better part of a decade.
This journey began for me eight years ago with a phone call from Samantha Liskow of Loevy & Loevy, who floated the intriguing idea of trying to penetrate official secrecy by challenging the protective orders under which police misconduct files are produced in the course of discovery in civil right cases. Jon Loevy and Samantha generously agreed to represent me pro bono in the Bond intervention--a commitment the firm steadfastly honored, as the case extended over years and became ever more demanding. There is not a page in the many briefs we drafted in the course of this long, complicated litigation--first Bond, then Kalven--that does not reflect Sam's intelligence, industry, and passion.
Professor Craig Futterman of the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic of the University of Chicago Law School first came down to visit me at Stateway Gardens in 2000. We have been working together ever since. Our collaboration has included dozens of law students, many of whom participated in this effort; among them, Italia Patti and Saul Cohen, who skillfully argued the case before the Illinois appellate court. The legal resources made available to me--and to some of the poorest, most vulnerable citizens of the city--by the Mandel Clinic have been of immense value. I am equally grateful for the richness of my ongoing conversation with Craig. For many years now, we have been daily engaged in a joint effort to better understand patterns of police abuse and impunity in order to contribute to their reform. The intellectual generosity that animates our partnership has enriched my work as a journalist beyond measure.
In the Kalven phase of the litigation, the Mandel Clinic-Loevy & Loevy team was joined by Flint Taylor and Ben Elson of the People's Law Office. Beyond PLO's substantial contributions to our legal strategy, the firm's long and noble history of representing men tortured by Chicago police under Commander Jon Burge was a constant reminder of the gravity of the harms that official secrecy enables.
The Next Chapter
With the release of these documents, one chapter ends and another begins. The challenge is to make effective use of the information we now have access to. Toward that end, the Invisible Institute is working with a number of partners to develop a Police Data Center. Building on the collaborative relationships among civil rights lawyers and journalists that have brought us to this point, the Data Center will serve as a repository for police misconduct files and related documents. By sharing and organizing such materials, we will create an infrastructure that will, we hope, support an ongoing process of reform. The documents uploaded today are the first bricks in that structure.
July 30, 2014
July 18, 2014
We stand at a watershed in the long history of efforts to address patterns of police abuse in Chicago. On March 10, the state appellate court held in Kalven v. Chicago that documents bearing on allegations of police misconduct are public information. On July 11, the Emanuel administration announced that it will not appeal Kalven and that it has adopted a set of procedures for implementing the decision.Read More
Frank Main, "Police misconduct files must be made public court rules," Chicago Sun-Times, March 11, 2014.
David Heinzmann, "Court rules citizen complaints about Chicago police misconduct are public," Chicago Tribune, March 11, 2014.
Marac Karlinsky, "Court: make cop-conduct public," Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, March 13, 2014.
Editorial, "Chicago police misconduct files are public," Chicago Tribune, March 24, 2014.
Editorial, "Opening police complaint files would help instill confidence in department," Chicago Sun-Times, March 14, 2014.
WBEZ's Morning Shift, "The public’s right to know about police misconduct," March 14, 2014.
Dawn Turner Trice, "Holding police officers who commit crimes accountable," Chicago Tribune, March 24, 2014