Robert (Bob) Bianchi, Esq discussed reforms being made by the Chicago Police Department with co-guest, Lis Wiehl, Esq., and Fox News host Eric Shawn.
As a former NJ Prosecutor and now NJ criminal defense attorney, I have prosecuted and/or defended police officers for my entire career. While I am a supporter of what the police do, and led them as a NJ county prosecutor in Morris County New Jersey for close to 6 years, I also recognize that in all professions, there needs to be accountability and transparency, especially in public office.
The Chicago PD has come under significant scrutiny this past year after a tape of a citizen being shot and killed by a police officer was released after years, in what some suggest was a cover-up. The Department of Justice and other agencies have rebuked the CPD as being inefficient at best, and creating a culture of violence at worst, having no accountability and transparency in use of force cases.
Recently, some Chicago governing bodies investigating these problems implemented policies to make the department more transparent, agreeing to release tapes of use of force incidents within 60-90 days of the incident. They have also implemented better practices to investigate and resolve the hundreds of pending cases that have not been completed for many years.
The police unions have expressed concern about the release of investigative data before the investigation is complete, arguing that officers that are later exonerated will be subject to public scorn, perhaps when they were acting lawfully.
As a NJ criminal defense lawyer that represents a lot of police officers, there is some truth to the fact that the release of such information could affect investigations and subject good officers to unfair critique. In fact, many of the tapes just released in my opinion show the officers confronting violent offenders that were not obeying police commands and placing the officers and community at risk of serious bodily harm, or death when the use of force was employed.
There is a balance needed here. The community relations and confidence in the Chicago PD is at an all time low, due to inefficient practices and what easily could appear to be cover-ups of some cases. This has caused such distrust of the police, that measures needed to be taken to balance the interests here. Had they followed better practices regarding these investigations, and handled the cases in a professional and timely manner this would not have become an issue that needed an aggressive fix.
It is clear to me that Chicago PD has not taken these investigations seriously enough, taking years to move on cases. We all know that in policing there are some officers that are not temperamentally fit to be officers. That not only affects the community that comes into contact with these errant officers, but so too, places other good officers in a difficult position, as well. When the case lingers for years and these unfit officers are not acted upon and are left to continue acting in a manner not befitting a police officer, it causes tremendous harm to civilians and the entire police department.
Lastly, as stated on the show, it has been my experience that the release of this information will actually exonerate many good police officers. Like many recordings I have reviewed in my career as a NJ Lawyer, these tapes often show the officers acting properly, under extremely challenging circumstances.
The bottom line is that we want to support our police and the work they do to protect the community. But, we have to balance that with an effective and meaningful review of their actions to ensure that they are complying with the law, are temperamentally fit, and are using force in a way that is necessary and justified.
What are your thoughts?
© Robert (Bob) Bianchi, Esq.
NJ Supreme Court Certified Criminal Trial Attorney
Former head NJ County Prosecutor
National TV Legal Analyst