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Is Chicago's Crime Spike Tied to Police Fear of Viral Videos?

By Ephrat Livni, Esq. on March 14, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Chicago police are taking it easy, or so it seems from the spike in murders and violent crime the city's experiencing. But they are not having a good time. If anything, officer morale is falling to new depths as murder rates rise, according to NPR.

Police Department officials attribute this to fear. Specifically, says Interim Superintendent John Escalante, fear of being at the center of the next national brutality scandal. Escalante stepped in as chief following release of a video showing police shooting black teen, Laquan McDonald, 16 times as he backed away, a video which rocked the Chicago Police Department and led to a US Justice Department investigation. Now Escalante must convince Chicago cops that they can follow the rules and keep the city safe.

Fear of Viral Videos

"Every officer I think, not just here in Chicago, but every police officer around the country does not want to be that next viral video," Escalante told reporters, referring to the "Laquan McDonald effect."

He also says that gang violence is being fueled by social media, which Escalante calls a new kind of graffiti. The Interim Superintendent sees a connection between online postings and retaliatory shootings.

Still, he does not think this should deter police. Growing public consciousness of police brutality cases is leading to less aggressive policing, say some. But Esacalante believes that police can follow the rules, lawfully enforcing the laws, and he recently recorded a video telling 12,000 Chicago police officers that they had nothing to fear.

Blame It on the Sun

Chicago murder rates in 2016 are double those of last year so far but there is also the weather to consider. The city experienced an unusually warm winter, which meant more people were outside and more crime occurred as a result reportedly.

Certainly the dramatic increase in violence following hot on the heels of Police Department upheaval over the Laquan McDonald shooting raises questions about the effect of the web on policing. Are officers indicating that they prefer to be blamed for omissions rather than sins?

Dean Angelo Sr., president of Chicago's Fraternal Order of Police, says morale is at an all-time low, with officers now walking "a thin blue line" between protecting law abiding citizens and getting law breakers off the streets.

"You know, they're damned when they put people on the wall and search them ... if they have weapons on them, and now they're being blamed for not putting people on the wall to search them to see if they have weapons on them," according to Angelo.


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