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Advocates critical of Chicago’s ‘drug corner’ arrest plan

Advocates in Chicago are calling a plan by the city’s police to deploy 1200 additional officers over the July Fourth holiday weekend to arrest teenagers found on so-called “drug corners” unconstitutional, saying it contradicts police reform measures. Sheila Bedi, an attorney representing a coalition of community organizers and a Clinical professor of Law at the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law joins Ivette Feliciano for more.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    On Monday, Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown announced the department would deploy 1,200 additional officers over the Fourth of July weekend to arrest teenagers found on so-called "drug-corners".

    Brown said the strategy aims to reduce the city's holiday gun-violence surge because teens are often paid to carry guns, because they can face lighter penalties and get out of jail quickly after their arrest.

    But an attorney who represents a coalition of community organizations helping to enforce mandatory changes to Chicago's police force says the plan is unconstitutional, and contradicts the city's police reform efforts.

    NewsHour Weekend Correspondent Ivette Feliciano spoke with Sheila Bedi, who is also a clinical professor of law at the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law.

  • Ivette Feliciano:

    So Sheila what do we know about the plan Superintendent David Brown announced on Monday regarding increasing arrests at these so-called drug corners?

  •  Sheila Bedi:

    Superintendent Brown announced that he's going to be directing officers to conduct corner sweeps. And what that means is that officers will be going predominantly in the south and west sides of the city and arresting people who are congregating at the corners.

    The other thing the superintendent requested is that the courts hold people who he arrests, even though he acknowledges that he is going to be arresting people for nonviolent offenses. He asked that these folks be taken into custody and be held through that through the holiday weekend.

  •  Ivette Feliciano:

    So what have you been hearing from civil rights activists and criminologists about this policing strategy over the July 4th weekend?

  •  Sheila Bedi:

    So there's really two main takeaways. Number one, the strategy of conducting these kinds of sweeps is unconstitutional. Discriminatory. And number two, it's ineffective. It's not going to create safer communities in the city of Chicago.

  •  Ivette Feliciano:

    What data is there to support that strategies like these aren't effective?

  •  Sheila Bedi:

    Well, one of the biggest data sets that we have is what's happened in New York City after the end of stop and frisk policing there. What we found was, was that crime dropped considerably.

    There's also a good deal of research into this idea of procedural justice. And that is that when police officers break the law, when they are unaccountable, when they are lawless, that's reflected in the community.

  • Ivette Feliciano:

    What do you say to arguments that apprehending those at the source of open air gun-markets is essential to ending gun violence right now?

  •  Sheila Bedi:

    You know, we just don't have data that suggests that's what works. What we do know works are some of the interventions that we see happening in the streets of Chicago that are led by people most directly affected by gun violence, interventions led by organizations like Good Kids, Mad City. These are young people, many of whom themselves have lost family members to gun violence that are actively working to negotiate peace treaties with neighborhoods that may have conflict with each other. Organizations like Mothers Against Senseless Killing. This is a group of moms who have occupied one of the hottest blocks in Inglewood and have essentially reduced violence on that block significantly by just being a positive force.

    So it's those types of interventions that build on both the expertise of people who are most affected by gun violence and most affected by corrupt policing and investing in those kinds of leadership. That's what reduces violence in our communities.

  •  Ivette Feliciano:

    Of course in 2017, we had the U.S. Department of Justice release a report, which found that the Chicago Police Department was deficient in training and supervision and prone to excessive force, especially against people of color. What has police reform in Chicago looked like since that report was released?

  •  Sheila Bedi:

    One of the things that resulted from the Department of Justice's findings is a consent decree. So the city of Chicago Police Department is currently operating under a federal court order.

    I, along with some other civil rights attorneys, represent a coalition of community based organizations in the enforcement of that consent decree. And the consent decree overhauls the police department, everything from training to supervision to use of force to unbiased policing. It is, and consent decrees have been, in other jurisdictions, really powerful tools for transforming police violence and holding police departments accountable.

    What we've seen in Chicago so far, though, is that the police department has not adhered to any of the really significant deadlines contained in the consent decree. Elected officials talk a good game about police reform. But when push comes to shove, we've not seen that translated into policing policies or practices, and we certainly haven't seen it translated into compliance with the consent decree.

  • Ivette Feliciano:

    Sheila Bedi, thank you so much for joining us.

  • Sheila Bedi:

    Thank you so much for having me.

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