18,041, 14,994, 4,636
The numbers cited 18,041, 14,994, 4,636 could easily be the population totals of some of Chicago’s surrounding suburbs, but they’re not. These are the numbers of youth who have been arrested by the Chicago Police Department in 2014, 2015 and 2016, respectively. The Chicago Defender couldn’t help but notice that out of these statistics emerge some startling patterns regarding attorney representation, racial disparity, and potential legal culpability. Specifically, we’re talking constitutional and civil rights according to attorney Standish Willis.
For example, in 2014, out of the 18,041 youth arrested, 17,386 were eventually charged with a crime, but only 25 had an attorney. Out of the 14,994 arrested in 2015, 14,399 were charged and only 31 had an attorney present at some point while in custody, according to Chicago Police records.
But race, by far, is the most compelling. In 2014 alone, a staggering 14,106 youth arrested were Black, 3,095 were Hispanic, 528 were white and only 49 were Asian, records show. Again, in 2015, enough Black youth to populate a small town or an entire penal system were arrested: 11,318. Hispanics came in at a distant second with 2,836 youth arrested, 505 whites and 54 Asian teens.
By 2014 comparison, for every Asian teenager arrested, 287 Black teens were arrested: for every white teenager arrested, 26.7 Black teens were arrested: compared to Hispanics it’s 4.5 to 1. This pattern continued in 2015 with 209.5 Black teens to 1 Asian teen. 22.4 to 1, compared to white teens, 3.9 to 1 for Hispanic teens, The Chicago Defender wanted to know: What was driving these numbers? And, how could our judicial system starting with CPD sell off the futures of an entire generation — and nobody says a word?
40 Years Ago — The same old thing
The Police Accountability Task Force (PATF) recently completed its four-month study of the culture surrounding the CPD. In a 190-page report, they laid bare what the above accused would rather you not know anything about: that the patterns and practices of racism and abuse at the hands of the CPD go back for decades and continues to this day.
Case in point, in the early 1970s, CPD found itself facing allegations of police brutality, particularly in African-American communities. Congressman Ralph Metcalfe called for a “blue ribbon panel” to report on the misuse of authority. The panel found that CPD used fatal force more frequently than in other big cities and that 75 percent of those killed were Black. It also noted that “false arrests, illegal searches, and psychological violence occurred daily in exchanges between police and minorities and young people.”
Fast forwarding to today, the PATF report says “Of the 404 shootings by police officers between 2008 and 2015, 299 of them, or 74 percent of the victims shot or killed were Black.” Thus, little has changed since the early 1970s, the report stated. The report also goes so far as to suggest the “implementation of citywide ‘Know Your Rights’ training for youth,” is necessary.
Douglass Bevel, son of historic civil rights leaders James Bevel and Diane Nash, who played a key role in bringing Dr. King to Montgomery, Alabama, believe that the numbers are being driven systemically by the attorneys, correctional facilities, and contractors that service the justice system.
He insists that the prison industry profits off the inmates from cheap labor to phone calls to commissary items. “The powers that be have no incentive to change it,” he says. “For us, it’s the lives and the futures of our young people. For them, it’s their money tree.”
Vicki Cassanova-Willis, a human-rights advocate who works for the First Defense Legal Aid (FDLA), sees this as human-rights abuse. “Anytime anyone gets arrested in Chicago, it’s your constitutional right to remain silent and you have a right to representation, to legal representation if you’re arrested. We have a free hotline you can call anytime day or night, 24/7, 365 days a year. We have an attorney who will find you at any police station and protect your rights not to be interrogated without a lawyer present,” she says.
Despite the law saying you have a right to make a phone call, she insists that Chicago Police continue to violate the spirit of the law by not allowing people to make that phone call. It’s selective and doesn’t work the same way in every community.