Chicago’s new gun Offender base is unfair to gun Offenders

Chicago, IL – Critics are calling the Chicago Police Department’s new gun crime database unfair because it tracks who has been arrested on gun charges in the city before they’ve been convicted.

Chicago Police Commissioner Eddie Johnson rolled out the new “Gun Offender Dashboard” in conjunction with the mayor’s office on Aug. 5, the Chicago Tribunereported.

Commissioner Johnson explained that the new database would give residents a “transparent snapshot” of people arrested on gun crimes in Chicago.

The database names the specific gun charges and exactly how much bail an offender paid to get sprung from jail, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Commissioner Johnson and Mayor Lori Lightfoot have blamed changes implemented in the Cook County bail system two years ago by Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans for gun offenders being released from jail too quickly, the Associated Press reported.

The new release policy requires judges to set “affordable bail” for people who have not been deemed a danger to the community, in some cases even letting them out without paying bail.

“You’ve heard me stress many times the importance of keeping gun offenders accountable and not making it easy for them to return to the streets mere days after being arrested for felony gun charges,” Commissioner Johnson said when the dashboard was launched. “This is just merely an attempt to be transparent of everything that we have going on in the judicial system… I think it’s important for us as a city to have this information. If we’re okay with how things are going, then don’t look at it.”

The portal for the Gun Offender Dashboard resides on the police department’s website, and culls publicly-available information from the Chicago police, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, and the Cook County Circuit Court, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Critics have said the new database implied that the people listed within it were guilty.

“The people on this list have not been convicted of the crimes for which they were charged,” Cook County Public Defender Amy Campanelli told the Associated Press in a statement. “Yet CPD is flaunting bond court stats as if they have already been convicted.”

Era Laudermilk, one of the public defender’s top deputies, said the gun dashboard was less fair than a sex offender registry.

“Even sex offenders have to be found guilty in a court of law before we put them on a public registry labeling them as sex offenders,” Laudermilk said.

Both Commissioner Johnson and the mayor have defended the new tool and pointed out that everything in the Gun Offender Dashboard is available to the public in police reports and court records, the Associated Press reported.

“Since when is it a problem to put out public information?” Lightfoot asked reporters.

But Stephanie Kollman, policy director of the Children and Family Justice Center at Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, complained that even the name of the tool – Gun Offender Dashboard – implied guilt, the Associated Press reported.

“These are not offenders, they’re arrestees,” Kollman said.

“The problem is not what happens when violent criminals come before judges in Chicago, but rather what happens when violent criminals are never brought before a judge,” Preckwinkle wrote in a letter to Lightfoot.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who just lost the mayor’s race to Lightfoot, blamed the city’s problem with violent offenders on the police, not the bail system, the Associated Press reported.

She said the police department’s record of only arresting suspects in one out of four homicides left “families of victims with no closure while violent perpetrators of crime are emboldened to continue wreaking havoc in our communities.”

Commissioner Johnson sent a letter to the public defender that pointed out one in 10 felony gun offenders in 2018 were arrested again for violent crime or another gun charge, the Associated Press reported.

According to the commissioner, 72 of the 4,300 people charged with gun crimes in 2018 have been shot since their arrest.

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