The following script is from “Crisis in Chicago,” which aired on Jan. 1, 2017. Bill Whitaker is the correspondent. Andrew Bast, Guy Campanile and Michael Radutzky, producers.
The number of casualties in Chicago since last New Year’s Day has surged to a level more in line with a war zone than one of America’s great cities. More than 700 people were murdered. Over 4,000 shot. That’s more than Los Angeles and New York combined.
Gangs, guns and drugs have caused chaos in Chicago for years. But something new caught our attention. There’s been a drop in the kind of police work that law enforcement says is critical to preventing crime. Usually stops and arrests go up when violence is rising. So we went to Chicago to look for an explanation. What we found was a police department on its heels as the city suffered its worst bloodshed in 18 years.
In the six days we were in Chicago, 55 people were shot, 16 were killed. We were struck by just how routine it all felt. The dead and wounded were removed with grim efficiency -- right down to the HAZMAT crews that cleaned away the blood. Murder seemed almost normal.
Michael Pfleger: And now we are the poster boy of violence in America.
Michael Pfleger is pastor of St. Sabina Church on Chicago’s South Side. His congregation started summer weekends by praying for a low body count.
Michael Pfleger: I had three families-- three different families call in one day asking to do the funeral of their child that was killed in the last week. I’ve never had that in 41 years here. Three families in one day.
Fifty-nine gangs are at war over territory and drugs on Chicago’s West and South Sides. But the makeshift memorials we saw, also mark places where people were killed in gang initiations or over petty insults. This gang member was taunting a rival on his phone live on the Internet when he was shot. Watch and you’ll see the gunman.
Bill Whitaker: What’s it like here on a typical Saturday night these days?
Michael Pfleger: I’ve never seen there to be a combination of anger, distrust, and a feeling like communities have been abandoned.
[Chicago protest: Peace in the streets.]
Michael Pfleger: Shame on us that our children are afraid to go out of their house of being shot and killed. When is the tipping point, do we all say, enough?
But we were astonished by data we obtained from inside the police department. It revealed that as killings rose, police activity fell. In August of 2015, cops stopped and questioned 49,257 people. A year later those stops dropped to 8,859, down 80 percent. At the same time arrests were off by a third, from just over 10,000 to 6,900.
Bill Whitaker: You talk to cops every day.
Brian Warner: We do.
Bill Whitaker: What’s the morale?
Brian Warner: Lowest it’s ever been.
Brian Warner is a former Chicago cop. He was shot in 2011. Now Warner counsels officers suffering from extreme stress. He explained what a dozen beat cops told us off-camera: they had stepped back.
Brian Warner: You have a 911 call, you go to your 911 call. But if you’re one-- aggressive patrol when you’re out looking for people breaking the law. That’s not happening as much as it was.
Bill Whitaker: You say they’re not being as proactive?
Brian Warner: No. They’re not. And how could you ask them to be? And why would you expect them to be?
Bill Whitaker: Because it’s their job. They signed on to do that.
Brian Warner: It’s my job to go to work and listen to your 911 calls and respond. That’s the basic ability of my job. So if you want me to do the basics that’s what I am doing now.
Garry McCarthy: The police activity is horrific. Honestly. And there, and there’s not an excuse that could be made in my book.
We showed the stop and arrest data that we got to Garry McCarthy. He was superintendent of the Chicago Police Department until just a year ago.
Garry McCarthy: When you have activity falling off the way it is and crime skyrocketing, that’s a huge problem.
Bill Whitaker: Some people, looking at the Chicago Police Department have said it’s in crisis.
Garry McCarthy: Crisis is a good word. When people are dying, yes, there’s crisis. No two ways about it.
This crisis inside the police department began in 2014 with the shooting of Laquan McDonald. He was 17 years old. Police reported McDonald was breaking into vehicles and ignored their commands when they said he lunged at one of them with a knife. But dashboard video appears to show McDonald was moving away when he was shot 16 times by a white officer.
Bill Whitaker: When did you first see the video?
Garry McCarthy: I saw the video, I believe it was the day after.
Bill Whitaker: What did you think?
Garry McCarthy: I said that there’s a problem. And the officer’s going to be accountable for explaining his actions.
Garry McCarthy immediately gave the case to the independent city agency that reviews shootings. But City Hall refused to make the video public, even after it paid McDonald’s family a $5 million settlement.
When a judge finally ordered the video released a year later, it sparked outrage. Protesters accused the city of a cover-up to protect Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s reelection. The mayor denied it, but promised sweeping changes. His first move was to fire Garry McCarthy.
Bill Whitaker: Do you think you were made a scapegoat?
Garry McCarthy: I don’t think it helped the situation, and I think it’s a contributory factor to where are today in Chicago. And if you want to call it scapegoat, that’s fine.
The cop who killed Laquan McDonald is awaiting trial for murder and the U.S. Justice department is investigating the Chicago PD. We wanted to talk to Mayor Emanuel, but he declined. Within six weeks of the shooting scandal, investigative stops fell by nearly 35,000. That’s when the violence began to surge.
Bill Whitaker: How can a police officer who has taken a vow to protect and serve defend stepping back from taking proactive action. How can you not--
Garry McCarthy: Officers are under attack. That’s how they feel, right. That’s how they feel in this environment, and they’re not going to put themselves and their families in jeopardy.
Frustration among cops deepened with a new order to be more selective about who they stopped, and write a two-page detailed report for every one. It was the result of a threat by the American Civil Liberties Union to sue the department for racial profiling.
Bill Whitaker: It doesn’t seem that filling out a two page report is that onerous.
Garry McCarthy: Oh, sure it is.
Bill Whitaker: It is?
Garry McCarthy: It could take you up to 45 minutes and one of the things in policing that we’ve been trying to do is knock back the amount of time that officers spend doing paperwork and get them out doing more proactive things to prevent crime.
There are reasons for the scrutiny. Since 2004, the city has paid out more than a half-billion dollars in settlements for police misconduct. A task force appointed by the mayor found evidence of racial bias, and reported that nearly 90 percent of police shootings involved minorities.
Richard Wooten: The Chicago Police is not racist, but I do know and do believe that there are racist police officers in the Chicago Police Department.
Richard Wooten broke ranks and talked to the mayor’s task force about what he saw during his 23 years as a Chicago cop.
Richard Wooten: They put me in this car with this guy, and my first couple of stops, I saw this guy stop a black guy. You know, several black guys on the street and they literally almost got strip searched right in the middle of the street. And I’m looking like “Wow.” Is this the way things are supposed to be done?
Bill Whitaker: You were called a traitor for speaking out?
Richard Wooten: Oh yes. At my retirement party when I got up to speak, a group of white boys in the back, they booed me, called me traitor, snitch.
Bill Whitaker: Was the booing the extent of it?
Richard Wooten: No. I went into the restroom, and I was confronted by a couple of the guys in the restroom about, you know, my position and how could I do that after 20-some years of service? But then as I’m looking into the urinal I see my picture that they’ve torn out of the program is in each urinal.
Bill Whitaker: They put your picture in the urinals?
Richard Wooten: My picture in the urinals. But I wasn’t angry Bill.
Bill Whitaker: You weren’t angry?
Richard Wooten: I was not angry. Because that just told me how dysfunctional we have of officers we have on the police department.
The turmoil was not lost on gang members who record their attempts to lure officers into a confrontation.
[Say “hi”! No questions, gentlemen.]
This video was posted online by someone claiming to be connected to the Simon City Royals street gang.
The impact was evident during this October arrest. Officer Veronica Murillo says it was the fear of becoming the next viral video that kept her from pulling her gun as she struggled with this suspect. He knocked her down and bashed her head into the pavement. She suffered neurological damage that has endangered her career.
Garry McCarthy: The noncompliance of the law is becoming legitimized. And the police are on their heels. They’re on their heels for a number of reasons.
Bill Whitaker: How dangerous is that?
Garry McCarthy: We see the results, don’t we? We’re reaching a state of lawlessness. That’s what’s happening.
Dozens of innocent people have paid the price.
Flora White: I pray every night and every day that that no hurt, harm, or danger will come to my children.
Flora White’s prayers went unanswered. She showed us the parking lot where her 26-year-old son, Jonathan, was murdered in July. He played basketball in college and in Europe.
Flora White: He wasn’t out here selling drugs. He wasn’t out here gang banging. He wasn’t doing any of that.
Bill Whitaker: And yet he ended up dead.
Flora White: Exactly.
Jonathan was on his way to practice when he stopped to talk to friends. Investigators say he was shot by a gang member who was angry they were on his turf.
Bill Whitaker: By our count there have been about a dozen shootings just this August just in the area surrounding the spot where Jonathan was killed.
Flora White: Uh-huh.
Bill Whitaker: Yet at the same time, stops by police in the neighborhood have dropped by almost 80 percent. What do you think about that?
Flora White: What do I think about that? I think it’s a joke of accountability in politics.
We went looking for accountability from Chicago’s new police superintendent, Eddie Johnson. He worked his way up over a 28-year career.
Eddie Johnson: If I found someone that was intentionally not doing his job, then I would discipline him. This is a tough job. It’s a dangerous job. But it’s also a noble job.
Johnson insisted the main reasons for the drop in police activity were stricter standards for stops and the forms triggered by the ACLU. But he admitted his cops have become more careful.
Eddie Johnson: They are cautious about doing their jobs.
Bill Whitaker: You are calling it caution. They’re telling us it’s backing down.
Eddie Johnson: You know I still go out in the field and I talk to officers too. And they take offense to people referring to them as backing down or not doing their job.
Bill Whitaker: The one number that I think is not in dispute is the homicide rate has gone-- not just the rate, the--
Eddie Johnson: Skyrocketed.
Bill Whitaker: --number of homicides have skyrocketed. So the number of stops and arrests are going down dramatically. And the number of people being shot and killed are going up dramatically. There’s got to be a correlation.
Eddie Johnson: Well, you know, there may be some, you know? But again I-- I’d have to go back to it’s not what the police officers are not doing. It’s more about what these-- what the criminal if-- offenders are doing.
Bill Whitaker: But don’t the police pay a role?
Eddie Johnson: Yeah we play a role in terms of mitigating it.
Bill Whitaker: But it’s not being mitigated.
Eddie Johnson: Nah, I wouldn’t say that. What we can’t measure is the crime that we stop.
Johnson is hiring and promoting a thousand cops in an attempt to get a handle on the violence. But it’ll take a year under his plan to get reinforcements to where Flora White lost her son Jonathan.
Flora White: What good is it gonna do?
Bill Whitaker: You don’t think more police on the street will make a difference?
Flora White: I’m gonna hire more people to do a job that’s not being done? What sense do that make?
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