AI identifies 160 possible crime cop ‘teams’ in Chicago

A new study has used machine learning to identify more than 100 possible “crews” of Chicago Police Department officers responsible for a disproportionate share of police misconduct and violence.

The study, written by researchers from Northwestern University and the Invisible Institute and published on Wednesday in PLOS ONE— identified about 160 groups of officers, called “crews”. The groups identified consisted of less than 4% of Chicago police officers, but accounted for approximately 25% of “all use of force complaints, city payments for civil and criminal litigation, and police-involved shootings.” These teams generated about 18% of all complaints filed by black residents and 14% of all Hispanic residents, according to the researchers.

To identify cops who intentionally band together in teams, the researchers used data from sources such as complaints, assignments and settlements to see which officers were involved in “alleged joint conduct”, how often a conduct recurring joint occurred within the group rather than outside. to that, if a crew’s officers engaged in “similar types of alleged misconduct” and if there appeared to be a definite membership, whether by age, location, race or other attributes.

“Explanations of police misconduct often focus on a narrow notion of ‘problem officers’, the proverbial ‘bad apples,'” the researchers write. “Such an individualistic approach not only ignores the larger systemic issues of policing, but also takes for granted the group-based nature of policing. Almost all police work is group-based and Officers’ formal and informal networks can impact behavior, including misconduct.”

For years now, conservatives and law enforcement officials have clung to the narrative of the “bad apples” theory of policing: that individuals, not institutions, are to blame when the misbehavior and police violence occur. One might wonder how departments that binge on taxpayer dollars to acquire surveillance technology or ostensibly train investigators and detectives could miss the bad apples, but that’s ultimately because, as the said sociologist Rashaw Roy Put the several times and the new study attempts to elucidate, “Rotten apples come from rotten trees.”

In 2021, the FinancialTimes analysis data on agent complaints in Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia and found that while thousands of agents in each city had received at least one complaint since 2007, ten percent of them accounted for one-third of all complaints. In their analysis, the FinancialTimes underline Previous search co-authored by one of the researchers involved in Wednesday’s study – Northwestern sociology professor and director of the Northwestern Neighborhood & Network Initiative Andrew Papachristos – who uncovered “large network structures” of misconduct and abuse. This study identified not only abusive agents, but also “groups” whose interactions “contribute to the emergence or spread of misconduct” and could be taken into account when creating assignments, patrols and promotions.

Applying network analytics to police departments makes sense given this history of police departments and officer groups in general. Consider two prominent examples of crew-equivalent misconduct cited in the study: the Los Angeles Rampart and the Oakland Riders scandal.

In the first example, more than 70 LAPD officers were implicated in “assaults, drug crimes, fabricated evidence, perjury and, allegedly, murder,” the researchers write. In the latter case, four Oakland officers were “charged with actions ranging from filing false reports to assaulting, kidnapping and severely beating civilians with their fists, feet, pepper spray and metal truncheons”. The two crews coordinated actions with each other, concealed activities and, in the case of the Rampart crew, developed into a gang with its own symbols, oaths and language.

These are not isolated incidents. Journalist Cerise Castle documented similar and worse activity in Los Angeles as part of her masterful investigation series in 15 episodes in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and his deputy gangs. Over the past 50 years, according to Castle’s reports, at least 18 gangs have terrorized communities of color in the county, killed at least 19 people (all of whom were men of color), are responsible for a disproportionate misconduct and violence, and have cost the county just over $100 million in litigation over the past three decades.

Police misconduct has a long history in Chicago, which Thursday’s study focused on. The city’s police department is the second largest in the nation (14,000 officers and civilian staff), has a budget of more than $1.7 billion, and has a history of “misconduct, abuse and of corruption” that dates back to the late 1800s, according to the study. The research team also highlights how the Chicago police helped murder 21-year-old Black Panther president Fred Hampton Sr. were enthusiastically involved to COINTELPRO, regularly engaged in illegal and unconstitutional surveillance, and enjoy “a lack of effective oversight and accountability” to date.

The researchers point out a 2017 Department of Justice report which found “repeated and frequent instances of excessive use of force, misconduct, and derogatory language and behavior toward civilians, particularly minority civilians.” The same report also found that the CPD took insufficient action and often blocked efforts to arrest or investigate misconduct, and had a “pervasive culture of cover-up”. In 2016, before the report was published, Mayor Rahm Emmanuel faced calls for resignation as it was revealed his lawyers tried to delay the release of video footage showing the killing of Laquan Macdonald by police officers in 2014 until after the criminal trial of the officers involved.

As tempting as it may be to lay the issue at individual agents (17% of DPC agents generate 50% of all complaints, according to the study) or agents who share allegations of misconduct due to their collaboration, scholars argue they are organized groups of officers who have historically coordinated, committed, and covered up misconduct and violence.

“Given the group- and partner-oriented nature of policing in Chicago, one of our fundamental analytical tasks is to differentiate group misconduct that is the product of police organizational structure ( for example, two officers who receive a complaint simply because of their work together) of these cases of more intentional crews.”

In the study, the researchers cite Chicago’s three already well-known crews: the Watts Crewthe Skullcap Crewand the austin seven.

The Watts Crew became an “integral part” of the drug trade in the communities it monitored; more … than 212 convictions were overturned due to crew misconduct, but only two officers were convicted. Five officers (four are still on the force) make up The Skullcap Crew, which has racked up 138 misconduct allegations. Officers were routinely involved in “numerous reported instances of excessive and unnecessary force, sexual abuse and harassment, including strip searches, drug planting, theft and false arrest,” the researchers write. The Austin-Seven Crew was a group of seven officers “involved in theft, extortion and drug trafficking” who worked with local gang members to commit violent crimes. All seven were arrested and charged in 1995.

Yet, despite the information gathered, the study has limitations because it does not tell us how crews emerge, nor how culpable officers are members of crews, and the broader network structure of a police organization. Finally, the researchers write, identifying organized groups of bad cops is just the beginning – this type of activity has never been a mystery, and there must be the will to do something about it. .

“The analysis presented here demonstrates the ability to use data systematically to identify networks within a police department that may turn out, upon investigation, to be crime teams,” the researchers write. “However, even the best efforts to identify and validate these crews will only go so far without the ability to fully investigate these cases and, when deemed necessary as part of due process, to discipline, terminate or to hold the officers involved accountable.”

CPD did not respond to a request for comment.

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