By SAM RAPPAPORT
A new report published by the University of Chicago (U. of C.) Law School seeks to call attention to the perspectives and experiences of the young Black people most affected by urban police practices.
The paper, entitled “They Have All the Power: Youth/Police Encounters on Chicago’s South Side,” was the result of a four year collaboration between the U. of C.’s Mandel Legal Aid Clinic and the Invisible Institute, a Hyde Park journalistic production company.
U. of C. law professor Craig Futterman, one of the authors of the report, said the project started as an initiative to improve the daily interactions between police and Chicago’s youth.
“Among the things we hoped to do around Chicago was to role-play and act out and talk through these encounters and find ways to improve them,” Futterman said. “As we talked with more and more kids throughout the city, we saw, more importantly, how much we had to learn.”
In “They Have All the Power,” Futterman and his co-authors, Jamie Kalven and Chaclyn Hunt provide transcriptions of conversations with high school students about their interactions with and feelings toward Chicago police officers.
These conversations, which took place over a two and half year period during weekly meeting with students at Hyde Park Academy High School, 6220 S Stony Island Ave., offer a glimpse into the root causes of the deep schism of mistrust between communities of color and law enforcement.
For instance, through these conversations, the paper illustrates how pro-active interrogation policies like “Stop and Frisk” can actually contribute to crime by driving a wedge between police officers and Black youth.
“This paper identifies how Stop and Frisk can increase crime,” Futterman said. “It identifies the extreme alienation that the practice has engendered.”
Futterman said that as a result of the alienation the kids experienced, they were reluctant to call the police even when someone close to them was assaulted.
In addition to putting a microscope to the interactions between Black youth and police, “They Have All the Power” proposes a thick set of law enforcement reforms.
“The changes we most advocate for stem from principles of honest, transparency, accountability and basic respect,” Futterman said. “These changes sound basic, but they require a change of mindset.”
Futterman’s work on the report, in fact, largely informed Ald. Leslie Hairston’s (5th) new ordinance to replace the city’s Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) with a new, more autonomous agency called the Independent Citizen Police Monitor (ICPM).
Hairston, who plans to introduce her ordinance to City Council on Wednesday, April 13, said the new agency would serve as an effective, transparent investigative body and would improve police accountability.
“My students and I played a prominent role in creating that ordinance,” Futterman said. “I’m proud of it. I sincerely hope it becomes law here.”
Though, Futterman also added, “Having a truly independent agency is the beginning, but not the end of police oversight and the community’s role in it. It’s not intended to be a final project, but a significant step toward community reform.”
To read the full report visit: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2754761.