Over the years, journalists have covered the Chicago police from every angle, documenting not only police violence against communities of color but also the Department’s internal methods for protecting officers and disguising the truth about performance and misconduct. In light of the release of the Police Accountability Task Force report, the Weekly has collected here some of the most impactful and relevant coverage of the CPD.
Violence, Torture, and Shootings
“Kicking the Pigeon” (View From the Ground, 2005-2006): Police terrorize innocent residents of the Stateway Gardens housing complex in Bronzeville, leading writer and activist Jamie Kalven to not only report on their behavior but also help file a federal civil rights lawsuit, as detailed in this series, which has been excerpted in the Weekly.
“Sixteen Shots” (Slate, 2015): Based on an anonymous tip, Jamie Kalven’s account of what happened to Laquan McDonald was the first in a series of events that lead to, among other things, the firing of Superintendent Garry McCarthy and the potential overhaul of the police accountability system in Chicago.
“Police Violence Against Chicago’s Youth of Color” (We Charge Genocide, 2014): Presented to the UN by We Charge Genocide, an activist campaign, this report details specific police violence perpetrated against youth of color in Chicago, and provides recommendations for authorities.
“Mariame Kaba”(South Side Weekly, 2014): Hannah Nyhart interviews Mariame Kaba, the activist and organizer behind We Charge Genocide and Project NIA.
“Homan Square” (The Guardian, 2015-present): The Guardian’s extensive investigation into the Homan Square police site on the West Side, named for a slumlord, and the alleged beatings, shackling, denial of access to attorneys, and secretive record-keeping processes that occurred continues to this day, with reports coming out this month detailing how use of the site was so secretive, often CPD members were unaware of its existence.
John Conroy’s coverage of police torture (Chicago Reader, 1990-2007): “House of Screams,” Conroy’s first feature breaking the story of the habitual torture of black drug dealers by Jon Burge and his gang of police officers, is a remarkable work of documentation of truly horrifying acts, and his follow-ups over the years—holding the courts, media, and citizenry accountable for the lack of punishment; eulogizing his subject of many years, the victim of police torture—are of the same vein.
“Beyond Burge” (Better Government Association, 2014): This, as well as its follow-up, is the most comprehensive look at the financial toll that police misconduct settlements have taken on Chicago, already a city wracked by multiple financial crises and mismanagement.
“Bringing Back the Taser” (South Side Weekly, 2016): Michal Kranz explores the implications of the Chicago Police Department’s recent mass adoption of the Taser.
“Stop and Frisk in Chicago” (ACLU of Illinois, 2015): The findings in this report, extensively covering the use of “Terry stops” by Chicago police, include the fact that the CPD’s practice far exceeds the New York Police Department’s at its absolute height, though the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program was far more controversial.
“The Quiet Rise of Stop and Frisk” (South Side Weekly, 2015): Michal Kranz takes a critical look at both the practice of using “Terry stops,” or stop-and-frisk, by the Chicago Police Department, as well as secretive negotiations between the ACLU of Illinois and the CPD over a settlement regarding stop-and-frisk.
“Confessions of a Red Squad Spy” (Chicago Reader, 1978): Lynn Emmerman profiles Pete Keer, an admitted member of the CPD’s “Red Squad,” a now-defunct division of the department with roots in the Haymarket bombings. Keer talks of spying on Mayor Richard J. Daley’s political enemies: Protesters at the Democratic National Convention.
IPRA, Misconduct, and Discipline
“Chicago’s flawed system for investigating police shootings” (Chicago Tribune, 2015): Published as calls for the removal of IPRA rang through the streets, the Tribune’s lengthy indictment of the agency is an excellent look at a system “designed to fail.”
“As Chicago Police Kill Youth, Vast Misconduct Allegations Purged” (Truthout, 2015): In a four-part investigative series, Sarah Macaraeg detailed cover-ups and misconduct in the shootings of Pedro Rios Jr., among others, and reported evidence that the Independent Police Review Authority was purging complaints.
“The Numbers Game” (South Side Weekly, 2016): Jasmin Liang investigates the dubious procedures IPRA uses to process complaints against officers and examines the dubious numbers the agency pushes.
“For Chicago Police, Many Complaints but Few Consequences” (New York Times, 2015): The New York Times’s data visualization of the Invisible Institute’s database is striking in its representation of the thousands of complaints catalogued against Chicago police officers.
“When Chicago cops shoot” (Chicago Reader, 2015): Steve Bogira uses the 2013 police killing of Cedrick Chatman to illustrate how the police accountability system fails Chicagoans.
The FOP and Officer Protection
“How Chicago’s ‘Fraternal Order of Propaganda’ shapes the story of fatal police shootings” (City Bureau and Chicago Reader, 2016): Yana Kunichoff and Sam Stecklow report on how, with the CPD’s tacit permission, the police union representing the rank-and-file retained a spokesperson whose job it was to represent the union’s point of view at the scene of fatal police shootings, and that nearly half of the statements he gave to the press about these shootings were later proven to be misleading, often in a way that demonized the deceased and portrayed the police officer in the best possible light.
“Paper Trail” (South Side Weekly, 2016): The city’s police unions are trying to force the city to destroy decades of police misconduct files, dating back to 1967. Hafsa Razi looks at what the implications will be if they succeed.
“Crimes, Corruption and Cover-Ups in the Chicago Police Department” (University of Illinois at Chicago, 2013): UIC political science professor Dick Simpson’s 2013 edition of his annual anti-corruption report focused on the CPD’s extensive history of corruption and misconduct. A key finding from an analysis of news clips was that 295 Chicago police officers were convicted of serious crimes between 1960 and 2012.
“‘Nothing happens to the police’: forced confessions go unpunished in Chicago” (City Bureau and The Guardian, 2016): Continuing in Conroy’s campaign to hold those responsible for police torture and its cover-ups accountable, Sarah Macaraeg and Yana Kunichoff reported on Chicago cops who tortured suspects under Burge’s orders and still patrol the streets.
“The Killing of David Koschman” (Chicago Sun-Times, 2004-present): The protection of Richard Vanecko, the nephew of then-mayor Richard M. Daley, by the criminal justice system after he killed David Koschman outside a Rush Street bar has been extensively chronicled by Sun-Times reporters for over a decade.
Lawsuits, Accountability, and Transparency
“Seeing the Invisible” (South Side Weekly, 2015): Lewis Page profiles Jamie Kalven, founder of the Invisible Institute and longtime activist for police accountability transparency.
“A Plan for Reform” (South Side Weekly, 2015): Considering CPAC, a proposal from the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression that would put the police accountability system in civilian hands.
“Can a lawsuit deliver justice after a fatal police shooting?” (Chicago Reader, 2016): Steve Bogira explores one of the rare cases in which a police killing goes to a jury trial.
“The Truth About Chicago’s Crime Rates” (Chicago, 2014-2015): David Bernstein and Noah Isackson find evidence of statistics-fudging at the Chicago Police Department, for both homicides and more minor crimes. Independent journalist Steve Rhodes and the Chicago Justice Project’s Tracy Siska made several key supplementary rebuttals to the initial report, including that this practice did not begin under Garry McCarthy and had been previously reported on by CBS Chicago’s Pam Zekman.
“What’s at stake in the Justice Department’s investigation of the CPD?” (South Side Weekly and City Bureau, 2016): Andrew Fan takes a look at how Justice Department consent decrees have played out in other cities, particularly Newark, Garry McCarthy’s employer before Chicago.
“If It Bleeds It Leads” (South Side Weekly, 2015): Bea Malsky investigates what responsible crime reporting looks like and what’s at stake when writing about gun violence. (Full disclosure: Darryl Holliday is now a member of the Weekly’s Board of Directors, but was not at the time this piece was written.)
If you know of a story you think should be added to the list, email firstname.lastname@example.org.