Putting Black faces in high places will not be the solution to structural racism in the United States. And while drug-fueled gun violence in the oft-maligned city of Chicago is an objectively horrifying problem, violating the constitutional rights of young Black men isn’t the way to address it, either.
Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown apparently feels differently. On Monday, he announced the CPD’s plan to sweep street corners for young people this week, reports WBEZ.
According to the superintendent, teens in Chicago are often paid to hold guns where drugs are being sold because they can face lighter penalties. That’s why he’s asking the city’s judges to keep them in jail throughout the July 4th holiday weekend after his cops nab them.
“Our endgame is arrests for the precursors to violence,” he said at a press conference. “Every day we’re going to be clearing drug corners to protect these young people from the violence.”
“If we make an arrest Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, we’re pleading [for them to be held] through the weekend, at least,” Brown added. “Let’s protect these young people, who are a victim of their circumstances in many cases. They have no other opportunity. They’re there on that corner but for mentoring, job, education—some are personally responsible for that decision, but many are being manipulated.”
Speaking of manipulation, civil rights advocates in Chicago have pointed out the flaws in the superintendent’s claim that jailing people is for their own protection—especially when COVID-19 has made the Cook County Jail an epicenter of infections.
Karen Sheley, an attorney with the ACLU of Illinois, said Brown’s plan resembles the summer holiday approaches of past superintendents: “We have heard this all before—that young men should be in jail for their own safety.”
“This is a terrible idea in the best of times,” Sheley said, referring to COVID-19’s spread in Cook County Jail this spring. “In the midst of a pandemic, it could be a death sentence for these young men or members of their family on release.”
A study published last week found that nearly one in six cases of COVID-19 in Chicago and Illinois can be traced to people moving through the Cook County Jail.
Meanwhile, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx says Illinois law does not allow prosecutors to request that judges hold people in jail just because police desire it.
Even if it was legal, experts say such a move won’t do anything meaningful to address the violence in Chicago
“If criminalization and incarceration made communities safer, the United States would be the safest country in the world,” Chicago Community Bond Fund Executive Director Sharlyn Grace told WBEZ. “The communities most impacted by gun violence need resources and investment, not more policing and jailing.”
The CPD’s budget is $1.78 billion, which will be used to deploy an additional 1,200 cops to the streets of Chicago this weekend.
Chicago’s Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who is also Black, did not immediately say whether she backs Brown’s plan to sweep up teens and jail them over the holiday. Lightfoot has come out against recent calls to defund the police, telling the New York Times that this would be “eliminating one of the few tools that the city has to create middle-class incomes for Black and Brown folks.”