After a weekend shooting in the Austin neighborhood, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPD Superintendent David Brown have publicly critiqued a decision by the State’s Attorney Office to decline the filing of charges, even as police acknowledge the lack of a real investigation. The following statement can be ascribed to Colleen Connell, executive director of the ACLU of Illinois in response to the developments:

The Mayor and Police Superintendent need to end the finger-pointing and blame game and get serious about addressing the spike in gun violence in Chicago. The past two days of high-pitched hyperbole after the Cook County State’s Attorney declined to file charges after a deadly shoot out in the Austin neighborhood is an example of elevating politics over performance. The political rhetoric has continued despite the CPD’s Chief of Detectives, according to press reports, agreeing with the State’s Attorney decision.

The reality, as acknowledged by the Superintendent, is that the Chicago police did not really do a complete investigation of the events, opting instead to arrest an entire group of people in hopes that a jury can “sort out” the facts. That approach may work in the movies, but not under our constitutional system. 

It is the responsibility of police to conduct a complete and thorough investigation as regularly happens in other neighborhoods, including the Gold Coast and River North. The residents of Austin deserve for CPD to take this care and concern, not simply sweep up young men and send them off to be incarcerated. If we permit the arrest of people without any real understanding of whether they committed a crime, we are betraying the basic tenets of our criminal legal system. 

It is worth noting that police officials have readily acknowledged that they were unable to conduct a true investigation because they did not get cooperation from the community. But that should not be a surprise. Members of the community may be reluctant to come forward with information because they lack trust in CPD – trust that has been undermined by the CPD’s nationally abysmal closure rates on murders, slow response times to emergency calls from Black and brown communities and lack of accountability for officers who use excessive force. 

People in all neighborhoods in Chicago are concerned by gun violence. But simply engaging in political rhetoric and passing the buck do not offer any solutions.