Chicago police are shooting fewer residents and drawing fewer civilian complaints than they were before protests over the fatal 2014 shooting of a black teenager, Laquan McDonald, by a white police officer, reports FiveThirtyEight.com. The decline in shootings and complaints coincides with an apparent change in police behavior over the same period. Chicago police appear to have become less proactive and aggressive in the wake of the protests, a pattern identified in other cities that have experienced high-profile deaths of black men involving police officers. In at least three cities, including Chicago, the apparent pullback in policing was accompanied by a sharp increase in gun violence. It is possible that the scrutiny after the McDonald shooting has made Chicago police more passive — less likely to stop suspicious people, for example, and more cautious in investigating reported crimes — leading to both the rise in gun violence and the decline in police shootings and complaints.
The Chicago Police Department offers another theory: that increased training has helped police officers do their jobs without drawing complaints or resorting to lethal force. Police officer Jason Van Dyke shot McDonald 16 times, sparking protests and drawing widespread scrutiny of the police department. Data collected by the Invisible Institute, a Chicago nonprofit that promotes police transparency, shows that the department’s apparently less-aggressive posture has coincided with a drop in both police shootings and civilian complaints against officers. Both measures were lower early this year than they’d been at almost any time since at least 2012. Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said he was “not going to deny” that increased scrutiny on police behavior nationally “has an impact on officers.” Officers haven’t abandoned proactive policing, he said.