On Friday, the Department of Justice released its long-awaited report on the Chicago Police Department (CPD). It found that the department “found a pattern of civil rights violations.” The report documented over 400 individual police use of force incidents, including over 170 police officer-involved shootings. It states the following:
The department found that CPD’s pattern or practice of unconstitutional force is largely attributable to deficiencies in its accountability systems and in how it investigates uses of force, responds to allegations of misconduct, trains and supervises officers, and collects and reports data on officer use of force. The department also found that the lack of effective community-oriented policing strategies and insufficient support for officer wellness and safety contributed to the pattern or practice of unconstitutional force.
In addition, the department also identified serious concerns about the prevalence of racially discriminatory conduct by some CPD officers and the degree to which that conduct is tolerated and in some respects caused by deficiencies in CPD’s systems of training, supervision and accountability. The department’s findings further note that the impact of CPD’s pattern or practice of unreasonable force falls heaviest on predominantly black and Latino neighborhoods, such that restoring police-community trust will require remedies addressing both discriminatory conduct and the disproportionality of illegal and unconstitutional patterns of force on minority communities.
This report indicates that CPD not only systematically discriminates against minority communities; it also uses an unconstitutional amount of force instead of employing community-oriented policing. This would corroborate the narrative of many Black Lives Matter activists, who accuse the police of being racist and shooting innocent black people solely for their complexion.
However, Heather MacDonald of the Manhattan Institute believes that the report is misleading. She wrote the following in City Journal:
The most important statement in the Justice Department’s damning report on the Chicago Police Department has nothing to do with police behavior. Released on Friday, the report found the Chicago police guilty of a “pattern or practice” of unconstitutional force. But it turns out that the Justice Department has no standard for what constitutes a “pattern or practice” (the phrase comes from a 1994 federal statute) of unconstitutional police conduct. “Statistical evidence is not required” for a “pattern or practice” finding, the DOJ lawyers announce, citing unrelated court precedent. Nor is there “a specific number of incidents” required to constitute a “pattern or practice,” they proclaim.
Having cleared themselves of any obligation to provide “a specific number of [unconstitutional] incidents” or a statistical benchmark for evaluating them, the DOJ attorneys proceed to ignore any further obligation of transparency. The reader never learns how many incidents of allegedly unconstitutional behavior the Justice Department found, nor how those incidents compare with the universe of police-civilian contacts conducted by the Chicago Police Department. No clue is provided regarding why the DOJ lawyers concluded that the alleged abuses reached the mysterious threshold for constituting a pattern or practice. Instead, the report uses waffle words like “several,” “often,” or “many” as a substitute for actual quantification.
MacDonald says that the DOJ fails to provide any statistical analysis to determine that CPD has any “pattern or practice” of racially-motivated policing. In addition, the DOJ does not provide any transparency on their methodology to make its case, only relying on qualifiers to manipulate readers into believing that CPD foments racist and unconstitutional policies.
“It turns out that the Justice Department has no standard for what constitutes a ‘pattern or practice’ (the phrase comes from a 1994 federal statute) of unconstitutional police conduct.”
Heather MacDonald of the Manhattan Institute
If the DOJ wanted to promulgate a narrative that confirms what the media has attempted to convince us of during the Obama administration, then it worked like a charm. Unfortunately, it came at the expense of transparency, quality statistical evidence, and possibly the truth.
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