When Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis stepped in front of reporters and news cameras and blamed the parents of 8-year-old Josue Torres for his shooting, a few jaws in the public-relations world may have dropped, says the Chicago Tribune. The approach of blaming the parents while their child was still in intensive care with two gunshot wounds was received by some as harshly insensitive. Weis’ assertion that “the parents are to blame for that 8-year-old being shot” was well-received by police officers, who often have maligned the new superintendent since he took the job in January. Mayor Richard Daley backed his top cop in castigating parents whose criminal behavior puts their children in harm’s way.
Although parents need to be accountable, laying blame is a simplistic response to complex problems, said Dexter Voisin, a University of Chicago expert in urban violence and adolescent health issues. Police officials said the shooting was gang-related and that the boy’s 29-year-old stepfather, Carlos Feliciano, was the target. Maggie Pagan, a coordinator for the violence prevention group CeaseFire, said, “The children get caught up in the activities of the parents. If you are out there gangbanging, you might be able to shield yourself, but can you shield your child? I think that we are as a society very good at blaming others. It’s easy to blame the parents, but the parents are also victims. Sure, maybe something wasn’t right, but what really should be the question posed is what we’re doing to help the families.” After years of decline, violence in Chicago’s gang-stricken neighborhoods is rising. The murder rate is up nearly 13 percent this year. Daley tapped Weis, an ex-FBI official, to clean up the image of the scandal-plagued police department.