Never Ready for Reform Part 5/X

The next big investigation into the Chicago police department was not, strictly speaking, a report about the police. In the aftermath of the Chicago Race Riots of 1919, Governor Lowden created the Chicago Commission on Race Relations, a committee of leading Black and white citizens, to investigate the causes  of the riot and propose solutions. That committee’s report, over 650 pages long, was published in 1922.

The issue of racism and policing was one of the many subjects the report covered across its hundreds of pages. In one section, in particular, the report offered pointed criticisms of the Chicago police department. Echoing earlier reports, the report complained that the Department’s records were terrible. So poor, the committee had to give up its plan to try to compare Black and white arrest and conviction records in the city.

The report also added support to complaints that the police seemed to be guided mostly by politics, both in terms of who police officers protected, and in terms of who they arrested.

And finally, the report reinforced studies (like those contained in the Merriam Committee report) that suggested that Blacks were more likely than whites to be convicted of crimes (particularly series crimes) in Chicago.

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Writer. Formerly civil rights attorney. Currently professor. Working on new book about mental disability and criminal law in the 20th century.

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