Chicago police use more deadly force as gang war heats up
Chicago police have already shot and killed more people this year than they did in 2010. Officials blame a 'wanton disregard for law,' but critics say police have been too aggressive against gangs.
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Then this June, current Superintendent McCarthy said his department would “obliterate” the Maniac Latin Disciples, the gang he held responsible for a shooting in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood that left two young girls wounded. “Every one of their locations has to get blown up until they cease to exist,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times.Skip to next paragraph
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But the confrontational approach is misguided because it only increases tension, often resulting in more shootouts with police, says Mr. Hagedorn, who teaches at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Many of the gangs are so deeply entrenched in Chicago – the Maniac Street Disciples date back to 1966, for instance – that attacking them will be ineffective, he adds.
“There’s a lot of ways to deal with gangs that have very deep roots besides war," says Hagedorn, who says the current approach “at this point is endangering their officers.”
Community-safety advocates agree that large police sweeps in certain areas increase the culture of violence on both sides.
“If you have the mindset that you need the military in the community, then people in that community feel under siege and everyone feels they’re going to get shot sooner or later,” says Tio Hardiman, director of Ceasefire Illinois, an advocacy group that works to diminish street violence.
A more-nuanced approach, he says, would involve the police educating young men in the community on how best to respond when stopped by police and by training police on how respectfully to approach local residents. Innocent people often become victims of violence because they don’t know how to behave when approached by the police, Mr. Hardiman says.
“Once you put all the guys in one category [of killers], everyone pays the price,” he says.
The IPRA conducts investigations of each shooting to determine if it is consistent with the police department’s official policy for use of deadly force, says Ilana Rosenzweig, director of the group. The findings can then help the department make changes, such as tweaking training procedures.
She says it is premature to draw conclusions on why the fatality rate is up, because the analysis does not cover external factors like the weather or the crime rate of an individual neighborhood.
“There’s any number of factors, but these numbers are important as each of these incidents are studied to see what can be learned,” Ms. Rosenzweig says.