More cops are the answer? What’s the question?


Figuring out what the question is can be the most difficult part of a job.

When we had a learning or behavior problem with a student, we would meet as a team to talk about it. Everyone who had some interaction with the kid met together and presented all kinds of data. Not just test scores, although that too.

What did we see? What did we know?

Sometimes someone would jump ahead to offer some intervention. But as often as not the team would resist coming up with an answer before we truly knew what the question was.

By the way, if you want to know what teachers do when we are not with students, this is what we do. Plus prepare for when we are with students.

The issue of coming up with the right question led me to think about Rahm Emanuel’s claim that in response to the terrible spike in Chicago’s murder rate he would hire a thousand more cops.

There was a sadly funny headline from the Onion that made the rounds last week.

“Rahm Emanuel Concerned Gun Violence Could Spread to Parts of City He Gives Shit About.”

It was funny but sad because it reflected the racism of our Mayor’s civic policies which favors the wealthy white neighborhoods over the working class and poor.

It also reflected the image of the city as wracked with gun violence and as America’s murder capital.

This image is so widely accepted that Donald Trump is able to use Chicago as shorthand for his Law and Order  racist dog whistle.

However, the data suggests something quite different. Our violence is targeted. Our victims come from specific neighborhoods and are children of color.

The month of August set a two-decade long  record of 91 murders in Chicago. All but nine of the victims were African American and Hispanic.

Half were under the age of 20. Our children.

The Englewood neighborhood on the south side was a particular hotspot for August murders. It’s one of the city’s poorest areas, with more than 40 percent of the residents living below the poverty level. This year, homicides there are up 171 percent over the same time last year.

Englewood is among four out of Chicago’s 22 police districts that accounted for about a third of August’s murders.

Look at a map of where the murders took place and they are concentrated in a couple of neighborhoods.

They are our city’s poorest neighborhoods. They are our communities where unemployment is the highest. They are the communities  where the Mayor closed neighborhood schools.

Urban sociologists who are smarter than me have written about the changes in Chicago gang culture and how it has led to the proliferation of gun violence.


Let’s look at all that.

A number of studies have shown that any interaction between a police officer and a civilian increases the likelihood of the civilian getting shot or killed.

Black men are disproportionately killed by police. But his research suggests that the reason for this increased risk is the greater number of stops and arrests by police, what is known as “excess exposure”.

So someone tell me. What is the question here where the answer is more cops?

3 Replies to “More cops are the answer? What’s the question?”

  1. I heard Rahm say he was going to hire about 1000 new Chicago cops. Later, I heard 1000 Chicago cops have put in for retirement on Dec. 31 of this year. Rahm needs to explain exactly what he meant. Is he hiring to replace the ones retiring, or did he mean 1000 more in addition to replacing the ones that are retiring? If Rahm is confused about the numbers, he can get help from any math teacher.

  2. Fred,
    Cannot blame them for retiring. Would you want that job?
    Private sector anything has to look better than patrol in the south side.

    I’m surprised anybody even applies. We are on our way to having the rough equivalent of marshall law or a complete breakdown of law and order in some parts of the city., pick one.

    As far a giving a shit on thr part of the mayor, I suppose he is trying to keep people in the city so taxes are paid so we can maintain the status quo, as bad as it may be. What would you do Fred? Keep in mind that money is an object.

    You don”t seem to have a lot of answers either/

    1. Why is money no object for sports arenas and river walks but is an object for underserved neighborhoods? You offer a police state or anarchy? You sound like the Mayor.

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