Since 2004, Chicago has spent $642 million on police-related legal claims. Between 2012 and 2015, the City paid out a total of $210 million to settle police misconduct lawsuits, many on the receiving end of the settlements were Black and Brown folks. This is now the same city that will be hiring more police officers, putting more Black and Brown Chicagoans at risk. There is no nice way to say this, but Chicago is wasting its time – and money – hiring more police officers.
The effort to hire more officers comes after a reportedly violent Labor Day weekend in the city. “It’s not a police issue, it’s a society issue,” Eddie Johnson, the superintendent of the Chicago Police Department told The Chicago Tribune in reference to the gun violence, “Impoverished neighborhoods, people without hope do these kinds of things.”
It was reported, after tracking police shootings over a six-year span, that every five days a Chicago police officer fired a gun at someone, and about four-out-of-five people shot were Black men. But, this sounds like a police issue – not a society issue – and shouldn’t be ignored in this conversation.
We’ve got anecdotes, we’ve got body cams, we’ve got data – yet none of this seems to be enough to fix a very broken criminal justice system in the City of Chicago. Like the rest of the nation, systematic racism operates within criminal justice and is tied to other areas of society including education, wealth, and overall community wellness. By hiring more officers, the City of Chicago is strengthening the System and ignoring an opportunity to truly improve the communities that comprise the third largest city in the country.
Million Dollar Blocks is an interactive platform that shows the cost of incarceration in Chicago by block, and as the trend suggests, many of the areas that the city spends more on are in low-income neighborhoods. For example, the Austin neighborhood, in which the poverty rate is 27%, racked up $550 million between 2005 and 2009 in incarceration costs. In second for the most spent on incarceration was Humboldt Park, followed by North Lawndale in third with $241 million being the magic number.
In 2015, local politicians announced $200 million in budget cuts to the Chicago Public School district, after already having closed around 50 schools. Most of these schools were in low-income neighborhoods, six of which were in the Austin-North Lawndale communities.
The City currently spends over a million on the Department of Police, this is not counting the millions tallied up in police misconduct lawsuits – that money comes directly out of the city’s budget, not the department, which is often borrowed in the form of bonds.
With the staggering reality of a biased police force that disproportionately impacts Black people in Chicago, one would think the strategy in improving these areas would change in relation to criminal justice.
So as the police force’s lack of concern for the communities it “serves” continues to drain the city’s resources, disinvestment in institutions like education will also continue. Hiring more officers as a tactic to curb violence is one thing, but when that tactic harms more than helps it isn’t worth it.
Superintendent Eddie Johnson described the violence in low-income Chicago communities as a result of the residents having a lack of hope. The truth of the matter is, if there is a lack of hope in those communities it has only stemmed from decades of neglect and an increase in the support for keeping these communities oppressed.