Community policing remains out of reach
by Terry Curry
What if there were a policing and prosecution model with a proven track record to improve public safety? Would the public clamor for implementation of such model?
As defined by the U.S. Justice Department, community policing is a philosophy that promotes organizational strategies which support the systematic use of partnerships and problem-solving techniques to proactively address the immediate conditions that give rise to public safety issues such as crime, social disorder, and fear of crime.
That's the academic definition. What it essentially means is that you know the names of officers in your neighborhood, and they know you.
In Marion County and other communities, the inability to fully implement a community policing model is not an absence of resolve, but instead the stark reality that we have insufficient staffing and resources to do so. Community policing is the poster child for the negative effect of the misguided and dead-end notion that we can continue to fund government services by forcing agencies to annually cut their budgets.
As a corollary to community policing, the Marion County Prosecutor's Office is committed to being embedded in our neighborhoods through our Community Prosecution Division. Deputy prosecutors and paralegals daily work side-by-side with IMPD district detectives and officers, as well as with Speedway, Beech Grove, and Lawrence police departments. Our staff members also interact with neighborhoods to consider proactive, problem-solving approaches to problematic issues. A 2012 University of Chicago Law School study found that community prosecution strategies reduced certain categories of crime, specifically assaults, robberies, burglaries, and vandalism.
Community policing is an effective public safety strategy. An IMPD pilot initiative in 2011 utilizing such strategies and implemented in the IMPD North District demonstrated its effectiveness. Dubbed EPIC (Education, Prevention, Intervention, and Community Collaboration), it targeted open air drug dealing, drug usage, street fighting, shootings, and other quality of life issues. The program had demonstrably positive results, including substantial reduction in open air drug dealing, significant increase in contacts with residents of the targeted neighborhoods, and removal of dozens of guns off the streets.
The unfortunate reality is that we are incapable of implementing a comprehensive community policing model when we barely have sufficient officers to patrol wide swatches of the county. Our officers barely have enough time to respond to daily routine runs, let alone have meaningful interaction with the residents of their patrol areas.
In an open letter in August, I shared my opinion with Mayor Ballard and the City-Council that our public safety agencies, and in particular IMPD, are woefully understaffed. The Mayor and Council subsequently reached agreement to fund police recruit classes of 90 officers in 2013 and 2014. However, we must realize that those recruit classes will only keep IMPD at current staffing levels after anticipated attrition through retirement and other loss of existing officers.
I must sound like a broken record as I repeat the same message at neighborhood associations, churches, and other groups: We as a community must have a serious discussion about how we fund government services in general and public safety in particular.
The ultimate opposing conclusions of such debate are abundantly clear. Will we be satisfied with a band-aid approach to public safety? Or do we adequately fund our public safety agencies so that we have the opportunity to utilize comprehensive police and prosecution models?
'Small world of murder': As homicides drop, Chicago police focus on social networks of gangs
CHICAGO - It was an overcast noon, and 12 miles from the city's sparkling core, Police Commander David McNaughton was ready for murder. His district on the southwest side responded to 39 killings last year, among the highest body counts in the city, which itself recorded 506 murders, the most in the nation. But instead of another bloody year, McNaughton has had to contend with a new surprise: peace and quiet.
"When people say stop and frisk is bad, well, no it's not," said the white-haired commander, handpicked to police the rancid, tumble-down stretches around Midway Airport. "We're going to save their lives by talking to them."
With days left in 2013, McNaughton would seem to be right: Murders are down this year by almost half in his district and about 20 percent citywide, according to department data. It's the equivalent of more than 80 lives "saved," as the commander puts it, and the lowest Chicago murder toll in a half century. But these happy new trend lines come with nettling questions about how they were accomplished, and grave doubts about whether the good times can continue in 2014.
During the course of two days this month, NBC News toured the new Chicago way and the science behind it, encountering an almost buoyant Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, the top cop in America's reigning "murder capital." He smiled as he raised the blinds in his fifth floor office on South Michigan Avenue. "I've never stood by these windows before," he said, waiting a beat before explaining why. "It's too dangerous."
He was joking, of course. But it's easy to understand McCarthy's light-minded mood once you understand the almost-magical promise of his approach.
Policing 'hot people,' not 'hot spots'
The switch was thrown quietly in May 2012, hidden inside a 16-page directive, "Gang Violence Reduction Strategy," and largely ignored amid a 60 percent rise in murders in the first quarter alone. With less than a year on the job, McCarthy had already disbanded two special task forces, roving teams that muscled neighborhoods into submission. Now he was betting on what he calls "the next phase of community policing in this world": an emphasis not on the traditional "hot spots" for crime, but on the "hot people" who commit most criminal acts.
Rather than merely responding to crimes or swarming bad neighborhoods, the Chicago Police Department committed to using the new science of social network analysis - the same tools that allow Silicon Valley to predict who you know and what you might like to buy - to detail the city's "small world of murder," as one researcher put it, and use that knowledge to stop the next bullet before it's fired.
This is a profound, first-of-its-kind shift in strategy, albeit reliant on old-school intelligence and similar methods for gathering and acting on it. About 80 percent of the shootings in Chicago are gang related, according to police, so the city organized a closed-door, maps-out, all-hands "gang audit." That identified about 60 active gangs, 600 factions, and the linguini of social and geographic lines that tie and divide them.
But the audit is perpetually refreshed, augmented by new intelligence from each district and flowed back into a master system, which spits out gang bulletins in close to real time. Now when there's a shooting, police don't just converge on the crime scene - they get reports that predict the next scene, the next victim, and even the next likely shooter, allowing them to converge on those locations as well.
"We got a pre-crime unit now," McCarthy told NBC, making a favorite joke of the moment. It's a nod to the sci-fi of Philip K. Dick, whose agents in "Minority Report" eliminated criminals before they broke bad. As a description of Chicago's police work in 2013, however, "pre-crime" reduction is less a joke than a reality decades in the making, and now seemingly here.
If the progress continues, it could mean an end to the city's legacy of gang warfare, and a preview of the future of police work nationwide.
Civil liberties advocates raise concern
But civil libertarians and neighborhood activists are already alarmed. While McCarthy arrived to trumpet blasts about rebuilding community relations, he risks the opposite happening, and for a simple reason: His social network approach is data heavy and dependent on knowing the streets - which means questioning a lot of people, regardless of guilt or innocence.
"Chicago is the new New York when it comes to stop-and-frisk," said Harvey Grossman, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union in Illinois. He's the architect of an intensifying ACLU inquiry into the police department's use of "contact cards," detailed forms that document police engagement, including names, ages and associates, all of which adds to the department's reservoir of actionable information.
While contact cards pre-date McCarthy, who for years was in charge of police strategy in New York City, they have nearly doubled since Mayor Rahm Emmanuel appointed him superintendent in mid-2011. This year, according to an analysis by the Chicago Tribune, McCarthy's cops are on pace to engage 650,000 residents. The city doesn't track how many of their interactions are voluntary or what portion resulted in frisks.
But if the ratios match McCarthy's alma mater, Chicago will stop about 100,000 more people than New York City did in an average year in the last decade. "We're alarmed," said Grossman, who suspects many of these stops failed to meet standards for "reasonable suspicion" of wrongdoing.
Adam Collins, a spokesperson for the police department, says the contact cards reflect an increase in "positive" interactions with the community. But McCarthy says that frisks are part of police work. "Everything will improve if we just get out of the cars and put our hands on people," he boomed at a meeting with a deputy chief last January, according to the Chicago Tribune.
"It's not a practice that's randomized and you just walk up to people and start stopping them," he explained to NBC. "None of this is by accident."
Stopping a war before it starts
Down the road from McCarthy, in the 8th District, along a stretch of barred and barricaded corner stores, the even more cheerful and unapologetic Commander McNaughton invited a visitor around to his side of the desk to show-off what Chicago's network-based police work looks like in action. Since he hasn't had gang murders in his area for months, he called up on his computer an incident from late May, a drive-by shooting that wounded a teenager on the 2700 block of West 64th Street.
Even before the kid was in an ambulance, McNaughton got a flash message from a first responder, a dispatch telling the force that the victim had ties to two gang factions, the Sixth Ward and Lex City. He clicked on the document, his screen blinked, and up popped a report with pictures of four young black faces - "Rockwell Boys/Hit Squad" emblazoned above them.
Without a lick of physical evidence, these four kids, aged 15 to 17, were suspects in the shooting, their pixellated images on every terminal. They were profiled as potential murderers - in other words, known gang members, according to the bulletin, with a reported beef with the victim and a history of settling scores with triggers and clips.
But they were also potential victims. Below their head shots and names the report listed their hangout and noted ominously that "retaliation can be expected" there.
McNaughton dispatched police to this next potential scene. Then he called up another longer intelligence report, showing eight more young black faces, "Sixth Ward/Lex City" emblazoned above them. These kids were profiled as the next potential shooters, a murder squad in waiting, all of them friends and associates of the victim, all of them with known whereabouts. McNaughton dispatched more of his troops to find these kids, and stop a war in the making.
"It's a cycle that just keeps feeding itself," he explained, radiating the same optimism as his boss, a glow more often found onstage at TED talks. "We're not waiting to see a pattern. We're catching the first one, and taking immediate steps."
Less than two weeks later, those steps led to the arrest of one of the Rockwell Boys for the shooting. It wasn't a kid from the original four, but an associate police found through the same network. At the same time, in the days the case was open, McNaughton's cops were all over the predicted scenes. They made a dozen more arrests than in the same period the year before, catching one of the Rockwell Boys with a gun a block from where they expected the next spree - a shootout that McNaughton says never did happen.
The social world of Chicago gangs
Such predictive work is possible thanks to the research of Chicago-born sociologist Andrew Papachristos, the son of a diner owner from a gang-plagued community on the North Side.
Papachristos resolved to go into law enforcement. But he balked at the way police tried to anticipate crime with near-ubiquitous "risk factors" - generic qualities like poverty that turned millions of black or brown people into targets while doing little for public safety. He thought he could do better.
Papachristos, 37, now a professor at Yale, is a pioneer in the application of social network science to shooting patterns. His first peer-reviewed papers on the issue were published only in the last year, but back in 2011, he got the chance to brief McCarthy on the promise of his findings.
Using arrest records, he mapped the social world of Chicago gangs and demonstrated death's narrow path through this community. People within two handshakes of a murder victim, for example, were 100 times more likely to be involved in a future murder than a stranger.
Most dramatic of all, he showed that people inside this closed circle of violence were about as likely to pull the trigger as they were to take the bullet. They weren't predators or prey, in other words: They played both roles at once. If police could intervene, he thought, they could save not just one life but also a series of lives.
McCarthy has run with this insight. Oakland and Boston, among other cities, have incorporated social network science into a program called "Operation Ceasefire," which reaches out to gang members and targets them for social services. Only Chicago, however, has made "two degrees of association," as the department calls it, the backbone of a comprehensive policing strategy - and a strategy that has in some ways only just begun.
Last year, instead of policing an estimated 100,000 gang members citywide, McCarthy's department used social mapping to scrutinize the 14,000 or so most likely to fire a bullet or take one. This year McCarthy and his department have refined their focus even more, generating a "heat list" of ranked individuals in every district. The higher the ranking, the greater the risk of the person dying or killing - a risk at least 500 times that of a person not on the list.
'We will stop you if you make us'
The next step, now underway in two pilot districts, is a "custom notification": a friendly visit from an officer, bearing a gun, badge and bulletproof vest but also a message of warning, worry, and the potential for reform. The general message, McCarthy says, is "we will help you if you let us, but we will stop you if you make us."
So far none of the young men visited have accepted city help, he says, but at the same time none committed a violent crime - and, unfortunately, at least one helped proved the apparent precision of the heat list. He was killed in August, shot after leaving a party in an area known as "Terror Town."
That kind of accuracy, and the potential for better outcomes, has the superintendent feeling hopeful as he heads into 2014, a crossroads year for the emerging guru of national law enforcement. Another four quarters of downward-trending violence would help prove that the last five were more than a statistical fluke, as some criminologists claim.
But McCarthy's toughest critics are still in the community, where the drop in murders may fail to translate into feelings of greater safety. None of the more than half dozen people NBC spoke with on 63rd Avenue between murder-plagued Englewood and Chicago Lawn knew of the drop in crime and when told, most spluttered at the idea - along with the future-shock strangeness of McCarthy's techniques.
Still, as the sun set in Chicago, Superintendent McCarthy remained upbeat about his influence, drawing visitors to a long cabinet crowded with pictures and mementos. Most were from his days in New York. But one item stood out from his time in Chicago, a profile of him in the Tribune, his first big interview after he took the job, pledging to "change the way we do police work in this country."
Whether crime goes up or down, that's one promise he's already made good on.
Supervisors respond to youth's shooting by launching task force
by EMILY CHARRIER
In an effort to address rampant public concern over the shooting death of a 13 year old by a Sheriff's deputy, on Tuesday the Board of Supervisors approved a charter for county-wide task force that will explore the formation of an independent citizen review board to examine police activities, among other goals.
This isn't the first time the board has considered bringing citizens into the often-opaque police investigation process. Similar committees have been discussed after other officer-involved deaths in recent years, but never came to fruition.
The Community and Local Law Enforcement Task Force will include 21 members, three from each supervisor's district, three from the Sheriff's Department, two appointed by the mayor of Santa Rosa and one from the District Attorney's office. Petaluma's representative, 2nd District Supervisor David Rabbitt, said he's waiting to make his appointments until he sees who else is on the task force, explaining that he wants to select demographics that aren't otherwise represented in the group. A few members were announced on Tuesday, but Rabbitt said he expects the task force won't be finalized until January.
On Oct. 22, Andy Lopez, 13, was carrying an airsoft BB gun that closely resembled an AK-47 assault riffle as he walked down Moorland Avenue in Santa Rosa. After receiving calls about a young man with a gun, Sonoma County Sheriff's Deputy Erick Gelhaus, a 24-year veteran of the department, mistook the toy gun as real, and shot Lopez seven times when he didn't immediately respond to police orders. The Petaluma Police Department is assisting the Santa Rosa Police Department in investigating the shooting, which is ongoing.
In the weeks following the shooting, Santa Rosa has seen myriad protests as the public seeks answers as to how, and why, the death occurred, and what's being done to prevent similar tragedies in the future. Protestors have also demanded that Gelhaus be prosecuted for his role in the shooting, which reached a boiling point Tuesday night when dozens swarmed the Sonoma County Jail and pounded on the window until it broke, leading to two arrests. It's a phenomenon that has not made its way to Petaluma, said Rabbitt and Petaluma Lt. Mike Cook.
I haven't heard much angst (from Petaluma) compared to what I'm hearing from Roseland, Rabbitt said on Monday.
Cook added, We've had just a few parents call to ask what (toy guns) are allowed, and what are not.
In addition to serving as a sounding board for community concerns and ideas, the task force will assess the feasibility of establishing an independent citizens' review committee to oversee incidents like officer-involved deaths; explore types of community policing to improve relations with law enforcement; and determine whether the office of the coroner should be elected separately from the Sheriff's Department.
Rabbitt said the task force's exploration of a citizen review committee would be a work in progress. Once convened, the group will research four different models of oversight boards utilized in other cities that have worked to integrate the public into the investigative process, thus bolstering transparency of law enforcement activity.
I think we'll get something moving forward, but at this point I don't know what that will be, Rabbitt said. I think it will be a continuation of what we've been doing as a county since the shooting, which is a lot of soul-searching.
Community policing is something Petaluma has already implemented with successful results. After significant budget cuts in 2008 forced the department to roll back its staffing levels, Chief Patrick Williams turned to the community for support by launching his Petaluma Policing campaign earlier this year. From utilizing volunteers in the office to training neighborhood watch groups to keep an eye out, the police department said engaging the community has proven beneficial for both law enforcement and residents. For example, a program that keeps officers connected to one specific area for two years has given police a greater understanding of Petaluma's neighborhoods.
And neighbors have an officer they know and can talk to (more easily), said Cook, who is leading the community policing effort for the Petaluma Police Department.
When asked if he thought it was feasible to implement such a program on a county-wide scale, Cook said it all comes down to resources and whether the county can find the funds needed to properly implement the time-consuming programs that require extensive training for both officers and volunteers.
The task force will also consider separating the county coroner as a unit of the Sheriff's Department, since critics have argued that officer-involved deaths like Lopez's cannot be properly investigated by the coroner because of a perceived conflict of interest.
During its Dec. 3 meeting, the supervisors also approved the purchase of lapel cameras for 250 Sonoma County Sheriffs Deputy at a cost of $250,000. The cameras are expected to bring greater transparency to police efforts. Rabbitt said the board had not yet identified the funding source to pay for the cameras. Petaluma Lt. Tim Lyons said there is no funding available to implement lapel cameras locally.
The board of supervisors also plans to explore expanding its outreach efforts in the community, look for ways to bring more diversity to its committees and consider legislation that would allow the county to regulate the use and sale of toy guns such as the one Lopez carried.