Monday, March 27, 2017

Analyzing Chicago's Gang Violence and The Cook County Circuit Court



Timothy Evans, Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, recently sat down with Chicago Tribune reporter, John Kass. The interview with Kass talked about targeting repeat gun offenders, those who especially act on behalf of organized street gangs, and sentencing. John Kass hosts a podcast on WGN radio called, "The Chicago Way".

Timothy Evans, Chief Judge, Cook County Circuit Court


By the middle of the Chicago Tribune print piece at their official site, Kass says,
"I've been critical of Evans and other judges in my columns and also of some members of the Illinois black legislative caucus, since most killings take place in black neighborhoods and the black caucus does little but cover their political behinds.What's needed is legislation that will target repeat gun offenders, a law to put pressure on judges to give maximum sentences, or explain in writing why they showed mercy, knowing those comments might come back to haunt them."
We learn just after this statement that State Sen. Kwame Raoul is working on a bill to toughen sentences for just those people.

Illinois Senator Kwame Raoul
Kwame's biography sets out his qualifications to take on this matter, saying he's concerned with the rights of victims AND accused persons, with a focus on making Illinois equally tough and smart on crime. From his bio: "He sponsored historic legislation abolishing the death penalty and numerous diversion and second-chance programs for non-violent ex-offenders.  He passed legislation aimed at breaking the code of silence by deterring intimidation of those who cooperate with law enforcement officers. Sen. Raoul serves as Chair of the Racial Profiling Prevention and Data Oversight Board and Vice Chair of the Sentencing Policy Advisory Council. He also has been recognized for his work against domestic violence and on behalf of its victims."

"Raoul is a graduate of DePaul University (B.A., Political Science) and the Chicago-Kent College of Law. He has worked as a prosecutor for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and in-house counsel for the City Colleges of Chicago. Raoul also serves on the board of Legal Prep Charter Academies and was previously on the board of the Cook County Bar Association." - Official Bio


Evans said deterrence isn't going to be enough, calling for "real jobs in neighborhoods that don't have any, and better educational opportunities and mental health treatment for children suffering PTSD in the gang war zones."


Evans was quoted by Kass as having said "There were 9,998 incidents that involved guns," Evans said. "Out of those charges, about 70 percent of those cases that went to trial were convictions. And out of that on average the sentence was eight years. And the public doesn't know that. The public is hearing something else. …They (the public) don't take a look at what we see every day."


Evans then blamed other laws that he says judges have nothing to do with such as day for day time and pointed his finger at the Illinois Parole Board for its part in the early release laws. 


On Valentine's Day of this year, Kass wrote about what he called the "Judicial Accountability Act". Kass says, "Its aim is to lengthen sentences for felons already previously convicted of unlawful use of weapons charges. If judges decide to show mercy to convicted felons who illegally carry guns, the judges will be required to put their reasons in writing. If judicial mercy leads to some future murder, the judges will wear the jacket for it. Judges hate it. But worrying about the feelings of judges, and there are many good judges, isn't what's important here. What's important is getting as many shooters off the streets as quickly as possible. And that's why I call it the Judicial Accountability Act"


In the above piece, State Senator Raoul says, "What I hear from detractors, it's that, 'Well, these individuals are just carrying, they haven't shot anybody yet,'" My response is that we shouldn't have to wait until they've shot someone.


"If they've been previously convicted, we know they have the propensity to shoot again," Raoul said. "We have to get them off the streets, away from the community. To remove them so they may be rehabilitated, possibly, but also to remove them from the community to protect the community. And it's frustrating."

The Unseen Police and Efficacy of Specialized Investigative Units

District Tactical Units, Citywide Tactical / Vice Units, and Joint Taskforce Partnerships with the Cook County Sheriff, State Police, and U.S. Federal Agencies have been effective, but because of the early release spoken of by Evans, and the continuing flow of guns, drugs, and angry tensions based on a litany of street happenings between gangs......these various units are doing the same thing over and over again with the same results each time.


The National Gang Intelligence Center run by the FBI is just one way law enforcement combats gang crime.

The only thing that changes is when, where, and how these units arrest the same offenders again along with a mix of new offenders who are sometimes also victims, making for a delicate situation. 


Those who cover the #ChicagoScanner and #CrimeisDown beats on Twitter, and especially those who have been doing it for years, will tell you that the streets really are a combination of cat & mouse, and catch - me - if - you - can sort of antics with the gangs always trying to stay ahead of the police. These antics always end in a very dangerous foot pursuit through alleys, backyards, and abandoned buildings where officers face even more danger. The need for police to sometimes shut - down traffic lanes or even entire lengths of side-streets can lead to another list of tensions that can boil over quickly. 


The foot-chase MUST happen! To let the accused person get away may very well mean more serious injuries, deaths from violent causes, and overdoses from illicit street drugs leading to permanent coma or even death. Anyone visiting or living in Chicago will often hear "the police are nowhere to be seen!!" There's a reason for that! The police are there, the public just doesn't know they're around! 


The Chicago Police Department, known to journalists, security professionals, medical folks,  and street savvy people by the acronym, CPD, employs a combination of officers and detectives from specialties ranging from Robbery / Burglary / Theft (RBT), to Homicide / Gangs / Sex Crimes (HGS) in detective areas North, Central and South. Within this mix of investigative disciplines are the Vice Unit, Criminal Intelligence Unit, and other units who combine their expertise and  talents with those of district tactical units, units from the Bureau of Patrol by way of the intelligence they generate, and tipsters who utilize confidential means of reporting.      


The public will often ask "if the police had all this information, if they knew what was happening, why didn't they do something sooner?" The answer to that is found by simply asking any Cook County A.S.A. or in federal cases, any Assistant U.S. Attorney. They'll tell you that police can't just act on information. There has to be due process, which means investigation. Investigations can be of an on-going nature, giving police and / or federal agents time to gather legally required evidence they need to successfully make their case. 




Structure of CPD Specialized Units

CPD has a very organized, top - down (vertical) structure to the department. The chain of command is generally: Officer, Sergeant, Lieutenant, Captain, District Commander. The Captain is usually the Watch Commander. Captains and Deputy Chiefs also function as Executive Officers, otherwise called XO's.

A CPD Tactical unit is organized in a similar fashion. Each team has several members, and a specific function / specialty. Each team has a chain of command. SGT, LT, etc. That chain of command reports to the executive chain of command such as the District XO and District Commander. 

The citywide specialized units operate in the same fashion, only their chain of command doesn't answer directly to a district chain of command unless their operations call for it by department policy.   
 
The Court Process

City residents familiar with the legal process of making police reports and moving from there, to the investigative stage, then finally to the courtroom, know how hard it is just to get a CPD Warrant Officer at a branch court to get a case in front of a judge for a summons or IOW (Issuance of Warrant) in cases that qualify for that. Officers and Detectives from specialized units know that getting a case into court doesn't mean they can breathe a sigh of relief. They face extremely high levels of scrutiny at the initial stages of the court process. 


What the public doesn't know is police often see their cases dropped at the preliminary hearing for probable cause. Judges too often tell police "no probable cause found" even after police lay out their case to the judge establishing what was indeed the required level of probable cause for arrest. If a case even gets to trial stage, police have to worry about legal technicalities as a matter of caselaw and higher court rulings set prior to each case.


Police often watch an approved felony case dealt down to a misdemeanor as the result of a plea bargain between the state and the accused, usually done to move the case out of the system faster or because the state and the circuit court don't have the money to spend on lengthy prosecutions, so they practice selective and strategic plea bargaining.

      
Judge Evans Was Correct
There are processes, policies, laws, and regulations that are completely out of the hands of judges. There MUST be a combination uniform, unified, joint approach while also allowing for the city, county, and state to have their independence per separation of powers. Best practices dictate by way of weighty evidence that engaging citizens, entire communities, mentoring them towards a path of community recovery that will allow investment versus divestment is what needs to happen.

Gangs will adapt. We've learned through decades of experience that the criminal element always adapts, but that's where field intelligence and interruption of activity is key. Early release must be revamped so that inmates EARN early release by making real investments in their own individual futures while serving their sentences. Rehabilitation must happen, but we have to have a system that allows that to occur. Ending the use of unnessacery "collateral consequences" is also going to help. Certain collateral consequences are reasonable, others aren't. Illinois lawmakers have agreed in many instances that overly burdensome, over-reaching, collateral consequences assist in keeping recidivism high. 


One thing Evans missed was the living conditions in our state prisons. Rehabilitation cannot occur unless living conditions are conducive to it. If inmates are having to struggle to survive in prison as they did on the street during their criminal careers, the state is essentially defeating their own efforts.


The UPLC (Uptown People's Law Center) has documented alleged inhumane living conditions, alleged lack of medical care, even allegations of torture. On Spetember 23rd, 2014, the Quad - City Times published an article saying federal judges were looking into living conditions in Illinois Prisons.


Juvenile Detention Youths, Law Enforcement Talk About How To Stop Violence

January 9th, 2017 - Grace Wong at the Chicago Tribune wrote this above headline, which is an appropriate section title at this juncture.
The very nature of a child's developing brain means children are absolutely going to make bad judgements. Sure, there's nothing wrong with handing down consequences for errant judgements, and crimes need to be answered for. When the accused is a child, distinctions must be made between knowing, willful, criminal forethought, and the fact that children generally lack the full insight that adult offenders have.

In that January 9th piece by Grace Wong, "Evans called for "restorative justice," in which juvenile offenders who complete work assigned by a judge can have their records expunged. "As they come back to the community, they come back as accomplished citizens," Evans said. "Not as a terrorist or somebody you need to be afraid of." - Tribune quote

"Eight residents of the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center shared their need for adult male mentorship and summer and after-school programs, and their dreams of completing their education. Some of them talked about how they felt unsafe in their neighborhoods and how their relationship with law enforcement needed to be strengthened." - Tribune quote

"With their comments in mind, a panel made up of members of law enforcement and the judiciary discussed efforts at reducing violence. The 10 panelists talked about the need for collaboration between departments, open dialogue with the community and the challenge of easy access to guns and ammunition.

A third panel made up of community leaders, including religious and medical organizations, echoed many of the same sentiments, saying that young people want to be heard and supported." - Tribune quote

On March 13th of this year, CBS Chicago published news that a
proposed Youth Opportunity and Fairness Act, "HB 3817/SB 2021 would combat unlawful and overly board sharing of juvenile records in Illinois and bring the state’s current law in line with the American Bar Association’s model guidelines on such records." - CBS Chicago News Quote

It’s time we recognize that the arrest records of young people who have made mistakes can serve as impediments to their future growth and development and even create obstacles to such basics as finding housing and employment as they get older,” Preckwinkle said." - CBS Chicago News quote

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook and state Senator Michael Hastings, D-Orland Hills.

 


 

The National Gang Center. The National Gang Center (NGC) contributes to reductions in gang-related crime and violence by providing national leadership; information to policymakers and researchers; and resources, training, and technical assistance to practitioners nationwide.

NGC’s Parents’ Guide to Gangs has been updated. This guide is designed to provide parents with answers to common questions about gangs to enable them to recognize and prevent gang involvement.

PDF file Parents-Guide-to-Gangs.pdf
PDF file Guía-sobre-las-pandillas-para-los-padres.pdf (Spanish)

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