More

Chicago's police missed the mark with their safety tips. Here's what they could have done.

Crawling back from a generation of corruption needs to be handled with care.

Chicago's police missed the mark with their safety tips. Here's what they could have done.

On Aug. 7, 2015, the Chicago Police Department offered some "tips" on how to stay safe in any neighborhood.

On Twitter, the department shared a list of 14 suggestions for people to follow. While it's framed as general "how to stay safe" advice, when you start reading the list, it seems — weirdly — more like a guide on how to stay safe from the police.


Image from Chicago Police Department/Twitter.

Some Twitter users took the department to task for the list, accusing the department of blaming victims of police brutality.

Some pointed out that this list comes off a bit like the types of victim-blaming tips you see advising women on how not to get raped.

  • "Be smart about with whom, when, and where you hang out?"
  • "Avoid playing the music loudly?"
  • "Confrontation leads to confrontation?"

Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images.

Isn't it supposed to be the police's job to de-escalate situations? Maybe the police should spend put together "tips" for how officers can avoid shooting unarmed people?

And Twitter user @NovaTess made a few "edits" to the list of tips:

  1. Cops, remember that your actions and attitude can impact the situation positively or negatively.
  2. Remember that every person, and every black man in particular, is not a criminal.
  3. Be smart — don't lie. For whom, when, and where is irrelevant.
  4. Do not shoot when dealing with unarmed people.
  5. Cops, do not curse or raise your voices — stay calm. Remember — confrontation leads to confrontations ... especially when you whip out your guns.
  6. Keep your hands off your gun unless confronted with deadly imminent force.
  7. If you pull someone over, don't shoot them because they don't have a license.
  8. Before shooting someone, ask if they have any illegal weapons that they plan on shooting you with in the next few seconds. If they don't, don't shoot.

Of the 10 largest cities in the country, Chicago has had more police-involved shootings than any other.

A report by the Better Government Association uncovered some concerning pieces of data. For example, nearly 60% of all shootings occurred in the police districts located in Calumet, Deering, Englewood, Grand Crossing, Gresham, and Morgan Park. For areas that account for just a small fraction of the city's population, 41 people have been killed by police in the past five years.


Data source: Better Government Association. BGA notes that New York did not provide 2014 data.

The Chicago Police Department has a gruesome past when it comes to excessive force, brutality, and shootings.

Between 1972 and 1991 under former detective Jon Burge's command, more than 100 suspects were tortured into providing coerced confessions. Burge's crimes are often credited for being what led Illinois to put an end to the state death penalty, after former Gov. George Ryan emptied death row and pardoned four of Burge's torture victims in 2003.

In April 2015, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that the city would be creating a $5.5 million reparations fund for Burge's living survivors.

In February 2015, The Guardian ran a report about a "black site" located in a warehouse at Homan Square. The paper describes it as "an off-the-books interrogation compound, rendering Americans unable to be found by family or attorneys while locked inside what lawyers say is the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site."

The Homan Square "black site." Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

And cover-ups within oversight departments don't particularly help matters.

The Independent Police Review Authority, the group that the Chicago Police Department's "tips" advise the public take their complaints to, has investigated hundreds of police shootings since 2007 (this figure includes non-fatal shootings), with only a few found as "not justified" and just one where they recommended an officer be fired for a shooting.

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

In July 2015, IPRA Supervising Investigator Lorenzo Davis was fired from the department after he refused to clear six officers he found had been involved in unjustified shootings. Despite the fact that Davis had been working with the police department for more than two decades, he received a performance evaluation that said he "displays a complete lack of objectivity combined with a clear bias against the police."

Instead of offering "tips" on how not to become a victim of police brutality, perhaps the Chicago PD should follow the lead of Austin, Texas.

While Chicago's police have a document outlining the "rights" of anyone stopped by police ("You will be treated with dignity and respect," forbidding of racial profiling or physical violence, and so on), they could do a lot of good by instead putting together a comprehensive list of expectations their officers should be held to. A great example is the easily accessible document used by the Austin, Texas, police force.

Austin's Law Enforcement Code of Ethics document provides a solid outline for how to interact with the public and, more importantly, puts the onus on maintaining a peaceful situation on the officer.

What should the list sent out by Chicago's police have looked like? Maybe a bit like this:

"As a law enforcement officer, my fundamental duty is to serve the community; to safeguard lives and property. ... I will maintain courageous calm in the face of danger, scorn or ridicule; develop self-­restraint; and be constantly mindful of the welfare of others. ... I will enforce the law courteously and appropriately without fear or favor, malice or ill will, never employing unnecessary force or violence. ... I recognize the badge of my office as a symbol of public faith, and I accept it as a public trust to be held so long as I am true to the ethics of police service. ... I know that I alone am responsible for my own standard of professional performance. ... I will constantly strive to achieve these objectives and ideals."

Sadly, Austin has its own issues involving shootings and brutality claims. But the messaging in on point.

It's an officer's responsibility to control any situation that gets thrown their way. While many do a great job of keeping the peace, others seem not to have gotten that memo.

If instead of tweeting out a list of rules for the public to follow, the department tweeted out a list of standards to which their officers should be held, the police might begin regain the public's trust and put to rest its controversial past.

True

Anne Hebert, a marketing writer living in Austin, TX, jokes that her closest friends think that her hobby is "low-key harassment for social good". She authors a website devoted entirely to People Doing Good Things. She's hosted a yearly canned food drive with up to 150 people stopping by to donate, resulting in hundreds of pounds of donations to take to the food bank for the past decade.

"I try to share info in a positive way that gives people hope and makes them aware of solutions or things they can do to try to make the world a little better," she said.

For now, she's encouraging people through a barrage of persistent, informative, and entertaining emails with one goal in mind: getting people to VOTE. The thing about emailing people and talking about politics, according to Hebert, is to catch their attention—which is how lice got involved.

"When my kids were in elementary school, I was class parent for a year, which meant I had to send the emails to the other parents. As I've learned over the years, a good intro will trick your audience into reading the rest of the email. In fact, another parent told me that my emails always stood out, especially the one that started: 'We need volunteers for the Valentine's Party...oh, and LICE.'"

Hebert isn't working with a specific organization. She is simply trying to motivate others to find ways to plug in to help get out the vote.

Photo by Phillip Goldsberry on Unsplash

Keep Reading Show less

One of the questions many Americans had when Trump became president was how he would handle LGBTQ rights. Public opinion on same-sex marriage has shifted dramatically in the past decade and the Trump administration hasn't publicly signaled a desire to change that. Trump even added an openly gay man to his cabinet, creating somewhat of an appearance of being LGBTQ-friendly.

However, his record with transgender rights betrays that appearance. Transgender people have become a favorite target of conservative politics, and actions taken by Trump himself have been considered discriminatory by LGBTQ advocates.

These actions were highlighted by a mother of a transgender child at Biden's town hall event. Mieke Haeck introduced herself to the former vice president as "a proud mom of two girls, ages 8 and 10," before adding, "My youngest daughter is transgender."

"The Trump administration has attacked the rights of transgender people, banning them from military service, weakening non-discrimination protections and even removing the word 'transgender' from some government websites," she said, then asked, "How will you as president reverse this dangerous and discriminatory agenda and ensure that the right and lives of LGBTQ people are protected under U.S. law?"

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
True

Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

Keep Reading Show less

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended education in every way imaginable. While it's great that modern technology allows us to attend classes through Zoom or Google Meets, it's just not the same as in-person interaction.

It's also tough to recreate the camaraderie that can develop in a classroom.

The impenetrable distance that exists between teachers and students in the COVID-19 era was bridged recently when a group of students came together to tell their professor how much he really means to them.

Keep Reading Show less
via KrustyKhajiit / YouTube

Thomas F. Wilson played one of the most recognizable villains in film history, Biff Tannen, in the "Back to the Future" series. So, understandably, he gets recognized wherever he goes for the iconic role.

The attention must be nice, but it has to get exhausting answering the same questions day in and day out about the films. So Wilson created a card that he carries with him to hand out to people that answers all the questions he gets asked on a daily basis.

Keep Reading Show less