“The Interrupters,” the acclaimed documentary about the Chicago-based anti-violence group CeaseFire, caught Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s attention.
Worried about the city’s rising tide of bloodshed, Emanuel was impressed with CeaseFire’s strategy of sending ex-felons into the streets to mediate gang conflicts and stop shootings.
The mayor decided to put his police superintendent, Garry McCarthy, and CeaseFire founder Gary Slutkin in the same room a few months ago to discuss a possible partnership, according to City Hall sources.
The negotiations were anything but smooth.
Behind the scenes, McCarthy complained about having to deal with an organization full of ex-felons that refuses to share information with the police department about brewing conflicts. And CeaseFire initially balked at demands the police department placed on the group before they could become partners.
But on Tuesday, police officials and CeaseFire announced they had forged a deal. CeaseFire will receive $1 million in city money to put 20 workers each in the Grand-Crossing District on the South Side and the Ogden District on the West Side, both of which have seen recent spikes in gang-related killings. The pilot program will begin July 13.
In return, CeaseFire agreed to attend weekly evaluations that police commanders are already subjected to under the department’s CompStat system masterminded last year by McCarthy.
On Tuesday, First Deputy Police Supt. Alfonza Wyzinger said any rifts between the police and CeaseFire are history.
“With the amount of bodies from the homicides and shootings that are continuing to add up and make the city seem as though it is unsafe, if there were differences in the past — and I’m not saying there were — for the sake of the common good, those things have to go out the window,” Wyzinger said.
CeaseFire has received state and county funding over the past dozen years, but no money directly from the city until now. The funding for the partnership is coming from a plan to have the state siphon outstanding city debts from the state income tax refunds of deadbeats.
Originally, CeaseFire was supposed to get $1.5 million but that was under earlier plans that were to include three police districts.
McCarthy first revealed the police department was considering an alliance with CeaseFire following the bloody Memorial Day weekend. He said it was one of several crime-fighting strategies.
Over that weekend, 10 people were shot to death and the number of homicides in the city reached 200 for the year — a nearly 50 percent increase over the same period of 2011. Through June 17, murders were up 38 percent compared to the same period last year.
CeaseFire officials said they believe their pilot program will drive down the murder rate.
They point to statistics in several police districts where homicides fell while CeaseFire workers — many of them convicted felons — mediated conflicts to prevent shootings there.
For example, there was a 44 percent drop in homicides in the three police beats where CeaseFire workers were operating in the Harrison District on the West Side, according to the group.
“This is the new method for reducing violence,” said Slutkin, adding that CeaseFire programs have been successful in 15 cities and other countries.
But some police officials are skeptical of CeaseFire’s violence-reduction claims.
That is why they demanded the group undergo weekly police evaluations, a requirement included in a memorandum of understanding between the city Department of Public Health and CeaseFire.
The agreement does not require CeaseFire to notify the police of conflicts that might lead to violence. Police had asked for the requirement, sources said.
“We are not going to be informants or snitches for nobody,” CeaseFire Illinois director Tio Hardiman said Tuesday.
McCarthy has publicly and privately expressed his discomfort at working with CeaseFire.
At a June 12 forum, McCarthy said he was not a “big fan” of CeaseFire’s stance that it will not tip off the police about conflicts.
“When an event occurs and people are trying to deal with gang members and somebody comes in and tries to interrupt that particular dynamic, and they tell people, ‘Well, don’t talk to the police. We understand you can’t trust the police, but look at us, you can trust us’ — they’re undercutting that legitimacy that we’re trying to create in the community,” McCarthy said.
He repeated his concerns at a violence reduction meeting with federal and local officials last week, sources said.
Privately, other Chicago police officials said they also worry that CeaseFire staffers have not given up crime. The Chicago Sun-Times reported last month that six of them have been charged with crimes over the past five years while on the CeaseFire payroll.
Hardiman has responded that he fires staffers when he learns they engaged in criminal activity. He described the six former CeaseFire workers mentioned in the story as “bad apples,” saying every organization including the police department has them.
These Sisters and Brothers have been doing some wonderful work in Boston. We solicited their help with helping us to establish our Street Worker and Clergy Night Walk Initiatives. Attached is a link about the organization and little background:
The Boston TenPoint Coalition (BTPC) is an ecumenical group of Christian clergy and lay leaders working to mobilize the community around issues affecting Black and Latino youth.
The Boston TenPoint Coalition’s programs are unique because they:
- Focus on some of our communities “troubled youth,” youth that other agencies most frequently are unable to serve. We work with high-risk youth as their shattered lives and dreams are reflected in their violent and oftentimes callous and/or self-destructive behaviors.
- Operate in collaboration with other community-based, governmental, and private sector institutions that are also committed to the revitalization of the families and communities in which our youth are raised. By working with other institutions, we reduce duplication of effort.
The Boston TenPoint Coalition is faith-based because faith breeds a sense of hope and provides the nurturing yet structured principles and environment that many youth lack. We are a coalition that collectively aspires to make the “Boston Miracle” continue to work.
Locking arms in a west side neighborhood, the Detroit 300 praised, then patrolled. They marched to the alley in the area off Pacific near Tireman where a 13-year-old girl was recently raped on her way to school between 7:00 and 8:00 in the morning. Police say the girl was pulled into the bushes.
Detroit 300 went door-to-door showing the police composite picture of the suspect.
During their patrol, the 300 asked Fox 2 to listen in on some information they believe is new. A woman told the group of another rape to a teenager. The woman supplying the information asked us not to disclose her identity.
“Another 13-year-old, she was around 13, 14, she was raped Sunday morning on the Pacific bridge, early in the morning. He jumped from the side of the bridge with a pistol and pulled
her back down and raped her and then let her go.”
“We just learn that there may have been a rape just on Sunday of another teenage girl that may not have been reported,” said Angelo Henderson with the Detroit 300. “So we learn this kind of information when we’re out talking to people. They share. And so that’s what we’re trying to do, to be the bridge when it comes to information.”
We asked the Detroit 300 what would they do if they had somebody who pointed out the rapist? They said they would call their contact with Detroit Police.
Meanwhile, if you have any information, you are asked to call Detroit Police or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-SPEAK-UP.
We will catch this lame! The streets are screaming information on this one!
The Detroit 300, a community activist group, announced Thursday that it will begin weekly patrols in the city’s most violent areas in response to the recent murder of a 9-month-old boy.
“We’re going to send a message to these guys that it’s no longer allowed to victimize children, to victimize women,” said Che Daniels, secretary for Detroit 300. “We have individuals that are running around and choose to shoot recklessly into a home … but don’t feel enough remorse and sorrow to turn themselves in.
“We’re going to come looking for you.”
Police don’t have any suspects in the death of Delric Miller IV, who was shot around 4:20 a.m. Monday when his west-side house was sprayed with about 40 bullets.
Detroit police are working with the FBI; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department on the case.
Detroit Police Sgt. Eren Stephens said Wednesday that any help from citizens is appreciated.
Angelo Henderson, vice president and co-founder of Detroit 300 and local radio talk show host, said the plan is to knock on doors and look for clues that can lead to an arrest in the case.
The initiative is called “One Hour of Power.”
“I don’t believe heavy gang bangers believe a 9-month-old should be killed,” Henderson said.
“We’re going to try to appeal to their hearts.”
Detroit City Council President Pro Tem Gary Brown said he applauds the efforts because there needs to be a culture shift in the city to put an end to the violence.
“It’s going to take the community to be outraged, to get involved and to make sure that everyone understands that this is not normal … and it won’t be tolerated,” said Brown, a former police deputy chief.
For poor people in Michigan, justice is uncertain and at times unattainable. A recent report from the Campaign for Justice, a coalition seeking to change the state’s dismal system for indigent defense, highlights the need for reform.
The report details 13 cases of men who were wrongly convicted or, at least, convicted on suspect grounds. In each case, the men received an inadequate defense because of court-provided attorneys who did not have the time, resources or ability to adequately do the job.
Michigan is one of only seven states that leaves trial-level indigent defense entirely to counties. Counties set their own pay rates for attorneys and maintain wildly varied standards for representation. In Wayne County, for instance, part-time public defenders handle as many as 2,800 cases each year, an unworkable caseload that far exceeds national standards for public defenders.
No surprise then that Michigan has one of the worst public defender systems in the nation, according to a 2008 report from the National Legal Aid and Defender Association.
The dismal state of indigent defense violates a basic constitutional right to “effective assistance and competent counsel” as defined by the U.S. Supreme Court. The justice system doesn’t work at all if it doesn’t work for everyone.
In nine of the 13 cases highlighted in the Campaign for Justice report, the convictions of defendants were overturned. The others are challenging their convictions and awaiting court decisions.
Berrien County resident Charles Walker was sentenced to as many as 20 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. His court-appointed attorney did no preparation for the trial, did not call a single witness, and ultimately left Mr. Walker, who is illiterate, to represent himself. The Court of Appeals overturned the conviction, noting the lack of evidence against Mr. Walker and unreliable witnesses used to convict him.
In most of the cases, defense attorneys were either too inexperienced or rushed to provide adequate counsel. In some cases, the court refused to provide expert witnesses who could have helped exonerate defendants.
The costs for these shortcomings are many. Defendants endure a basic injustice because their constitutional right to effective representation is compromised. Taxpayers pay to incarcerate wrongly convicted people and fund the appeals that inevitably follow. The state is spending an estimated $50 million annually to house wrongly convicted people, estimates the Michigan Innocence Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School.
In addition, wrongful convictions leave the real perpetrators out on the street. In some instances, those individuals have gone on to commit other crimes and victimize other people.
Michigan should have a state-wide defender system that brings consistency and quality to representation of poor defendants. Legislators and Gov. Rick Snyder should fix this problem and create an office within state government that will perform this important function. This report is further compelling evidence that the system is broken.