Demagoguery and Gun Violence
As I was reading the latest demagoguery about gun violence and its … blah, blah, blah, blah … same old, same old. For instance, the call for stronger gun laws; keep guns out of the hands of the mentally unstable; keep guns away from the domestic abusers; stronger background checks; longer waiting periods, etc. It’s the same old talking points and absolutely no substance.
Ninety-six people are killed every day in the United States by gun violence and hundreds more injured nationwide. There have been 2,100 people shot in the Windy City this year alone with 415 of those dying. It is estimated to cost Chicago 2.5 billion dollars a year for medical care related to these shootings. Just short of 80 percent of victims and offenders are African American, 13 percent are Hispanic, and 7 percent are white.
Let’s review the process from the initial incident, the crescendo, and finish with the punishment phase: what should occur and what really takes place.
It all starts with police-initiated action. An officer must observe and arrest a person for a gun violation. The weapons charges are presented to a states attorney and approved. The arrestee goes in front of a judge who reviews the arrest procedure and continues the court process by setting bond. If the defendant posts bond, he must return on the court date set to defend himself. If he doesn’t post bond, he is relegated to the county jail until his court date and then is transported to court. During this court process, the defendant may be found innocent and freed or found guilty and sentenced to either time served, probation, or more time in the county jail, or time in the penitentiary. In a perfect scenario, this is justice. But, is justice reality?
In reality, police officers are very reluctant to take proactive action because of the current anti-police climate across the country. Police officers are being criminalized for good pro-active police work. Politicians are more focused on votes than safety.
There are a few bad apples in our law enforcement communities, but at a far less proportion than in other professional fields: politicians, priests, attorneys, etc.
In the real world the above scenario would play out much differently. For the sake of furthering our discussion, let’s ignore the police officer’s own hesitancy and accept that an arrest for a gun possession is made, as it is every day in Chicago.
The arresting officer runs the arrestee’s background and finds previous arrests for gun violations, or other felony arrests. (Let’s further suggest that the individual arrested for the weapons possession is black, as are 79 percent of the victims and offenders in Chicago’s shootings.
This disproportionate number is an obstacle to Chicago’s political elite. To seek political favor within the black community, the States Attorney, the Cook County President, and the Sheriff of Cook County all have conspired to overlook, reduce, or simply ignore gun crimes committed by minorities.) This information is passed to the States Attorney’s Office and the decision to charge and prosecute is often denied due to a technicality. Or, the felony up-grade is denied ignoring the history of gun possessions, violent crimes, and lengthy criminal history.
If the charges are approved, the defendant stands in front of a judge for a bond hearing. The judges in these courts are directed by the chief judge of Cook County to set the lowest bond possible and often they allow a signature in lieu of a cash bond.
Other times, the gun toting arrestee is permitted to wear an electronic monitoring device instead of posting bond. (Remember when a visitor of President Obama had his ankle monitor alarm go off in the White House?)
The amount of bond is no longer dependent on the severity of the charged crime. It is reliant on the amount of money the defendant can afford. Now, with all the planets aligned, this gun carrying thug is found guilty in our Cook County Court System, he is now sentenced.
Once again, the ugly political head pops up. The judge often avoids a proportional sentence and gives the convicted armed criminal a light sentence, often consisting of reduced penitentiary time or even probation, often on top of previous probations. The theory of relational punishment is all but history.
The goal is now to keep as many convicts out of the jails and penitentiaries as possible. And this cycle continues until Chicago’s murder rate reduces the thug population. Problem is, new and improved thugs are learning how to manipulate the system and are quickly taking the place of those who go to meet their maker.
But, with all this turmoil, the political pundits continue with the talking points and fail miserably when it comes to action. Our Criminal Justice system currently has laws in force that are a strong barrier against gun violence, but our elected officials fail to use them properly because of political backlash.
Coupled with the fact that our political system is waging a war on police officers, Chicago’s future doesn’t look promising.
To all my brothers and sisters in blue, lock and load and protect each other. And as always, stay safe.
Larry Casey, sergeant (ret.), Chicago Police Department, Criminal Justice Professor, Wilbur Wright College. View his website at www.StoriesofaChicagoPoliceOfficer.com for more information and review his book by the same name.