Evanston, Illinois (CBS) – Police misconduct can be difficult to detect, in part because of the so-called blue code of silence among officers.
But what if a computer model can detect misconduct without informing? A research group led by Northwestern University says they have achieved just that.
As CBS 2 investigator Megan Hickey reported on Thursday, the researchers say their initiative is not to identify a few bad apples, but instead views police misconduct as a group activity. They offered to share their findings with the CPD.
For years, CBS 2 investigators have been tracking allegations of misconduct involving Chicago police Sergeant Ronald Watts and a group of more than 10 officers.
Most recently, CBS 2 investigator Brad Edwards uncovered years of alleged violations by Officer James Huntwho boasted on camera that he had killed someone, in particular, saying: “I kill m **** rf **** s.”
“In many cases that we know of, there are usually one or two types of instigators around whom people gather,” he said. Andrei PapakhristaProfessor of Sociology, Northwestern University.
Papachristas says individual officers may fall into the headlines, but focusing on them is not enough.
“You can’t just look at one cop,” he said. “You have to look at the groups around them because most likely it’s not just them. It’s a unit, group or crew that we kind of found.”
His team in coordination with the village Invisible Institute, analyzed complaint and arrest data on Chicago police officers from 1971 to 2018 – using a computer model. Data from well-known groups of troubled officers, including Watts and his crew, were compared.
The model found at least 160 other possible crews of bad actors in the department.
Although they make up less than 4 percent of all officers, they account for 25 percent of all complaints of use of force, 27 percent of all city payments for civil and criminal trials, and 23 percent of all executions involving police.
Papachristas warns that his model does not determine guilt, but it singles out groups of officers on whom the CPD should look.
“We need to re-evaluate this police culture, where the worst thing that can be done is to turn to a friend who is involved in criminal behavior,” he said.
Papachristas said he contacted the Chicago Police Department about his findings. We asked the CPD for comment to ask if they could use this computer model in the future, and the department issued the following statement:
“The Chicago Police Department is committed to constitutional and lawful policing. We have greatly increased compliance with the Decree of Consent, which aims to implement policies and practices aimed at building and building trust in every community across the city. This includes improved accountability structures for detect and prevent inappropriate conduct by officers ”.