Across Chicago, the cop grumbles are almost as loud as the sirens.
The police discontent stems not only from increased scrutiny, including a U.S. Justice Department investigation, but new two page forms, which officers must now fill out after every stop on the street.
On the Second City Cop blog, one officer declared, “What a complete joke!” Another said he planned to “just drive around and wave at the fine, fine people in the neighborhood,” while a third predicted “I say the 500 homicide mark gets passed by 1 October!”
Of course, grumbling is one thing. But in the first days of 2016, gun arrests are down 37%, with gun seizures down 35%. And today at police headquarters, Interim Superintendent John Escalante conceded officers may be making fewer stops, because of the new forms.
“It’s been a little confusing to many of the officers who were used to operating under the old law,” he said.
The forms are an outgrowth of a settlement between the City and the American Civil Liberties Union, which found in a study last year that stop-and-frisk policies were overwhelmingly concentrated in the city’s black neighborhoods.
“We looked at May to August of 2014, and there were 250 thousand stops of people who weren’t arrested, who didn’t get a ticket, who didn’t have a gun,” said ACLU attorney Karen Sheley, who negotiated the settlement. “This is a way to make sure that the stops are being conducted constitutionally, fairly, and not having a negative impact on the community.”
Previously, officers filled out “contact cards” to report street stops. The new forms have over 70 fields which must be filled in by police, including a narrative describing the stop, and a possible second narrative, if a pat-down occurred.
At Chicago Police headquarters Wednesday, Superintendent Escalante told NBC5 Investigates that he believes with time, and continued training, officers will get on board with the new policy.
“The officers don’t understand the form itself right now, and how to document the stop,” he said. “The overall response I have gotten is the officers are going to do their jobs.”
Asked about the discontent, Escalante seemed to suggest it goes with the job, which he confirmed Wednesday, he is seeking on a permanent basis.
“You know, we’re not going to make 12,000 employees happy every day,” he said. “But we just have to address their concerns, and try to answer them, as best we can.”