Chicago City Wire

Chicago City Wire

Friday, January 17, 2020

Policy analyst says debate over Chicago's Gun Offender Dashboard could bring attention to make difference


By Glenn Minnis | Aug 28, 2019

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Amy Swearer sees the Chicago Police Department’s creation of the new Gun Offender Dashboard website as just another tool in the fight to curb all the gun violence that has plagued the city.

“It certainly isn’t first time I’m aware that Chicago Police have voiced frustration with the percentage of individuals they arrest for violent, armed felonies who are out on bond within a short period of time," Swearer, senior legal policy analyst for the Heritage Foundation, told Chicago City Wire. "I’m not shocked that we're seeing CPD take it further to make those frustrations known. It’s certainly likely to bring attention to that reality. From a public opinion standpoint, it’s a very powerful tool to show people 'look, we’re arresting people for gun crimes, we’re taking dangerous offenders off the street and here they are getting out on bond.'”

Critics of the program have described it as a “blatant intrusion” on the rights of those who, up until the time of having their names published, have only been charged with perpetrating a crime. Cook County Public Defender Amy Campanelli has further blasted the practice as an “attempt to create a false narrative” of what’s really occurring.

While some have pointed to the hypocrisy they see in those who typically take on anti-gun positions now standing for the protections of legal gun owners, Swearer said just the debate alone could prove to have a positive impact.

“One of the things we know from studying gun violence, urban gun violence in particular, is the ability to bring attention to the issue makes a difference,” she said. “It sends the message that Chicago is a city that’s not going to tolerate people engaging in illegal gun violence.”

Swearer said she can understand why CPD would be ready to go on the offensive in defending itself from the black-eye the department is often forced to absorb in the city’s ongoing fight to rid itself of all the lingering gun violence.

“A lot of this stems from the laws and policies that are in place,” she said of the issue of so many violent gun offenders being eligible for bail. “These are things that generally fall back on elected officials. The good news is that for those steps to take place, there are actions that voters can take. It just comes down to voters taking those steps to ensure that the people in position to do something are actually taking appropriate actions.”

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