Public defender takes shots at Chicago Police gun offender webpage

The Chicago Police Department’s new online database showing bond amounts for people charged with gun crimes needs to be taken down, Cook County Public Defender Amy Campanelli said Wednesday.

In a press release, Campanelli said the CPD “Gun Offender Dashboard” unveiled this week by Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson is inaccurate and does not differentiate between people who have been arrested for gun possession from those who’ve been charged with crimes that involved actually firing weapons.

“(CPD) is flaunting bond court stats as if they have already been convicted. This is another example of police using a list of people who are presumed innocent as a red herring to distract from the real issue of the day: the CPD’s failure to arrest the individuals who are shooters and who continue to wreak havoc in Chicago,” Campanelli wrote.

Campanelli, whose office represents the vast majority of criminal defendants in Cook County, issued her statement two days after Johnson held a press conference announcing the dashboard had gone live, a press event that came after a weekend during which 55 people were shot, seven fatally - the most violent weekend in Chicago so far this year.

The CPD stats, culled from department records and public data from the sheriff’s office and county courts, show that only a third of people arrested on gun charges from May through the end of July were being held in jail, with the rest receiving bond. Johnson has in recent months complained his officers make gun arrests, only to see offenders back on the streets within days or hours.

Reforms to bond court that favor granting more people bond at amounts they can afford to pay have resulted in a dramatic drop in the number of people being held in the Cook County Jail.

Campanelli points out that data released by Chief Judge Timothy Evans’ office since he mandated reforms in 2017 show that fewer than 1% of offenders released on bond — for all charges, not just gun offenses — are arrested for a violent crime while free on bond.

The public defender also notes that the dashboard shows the names of defendants who have not been convicted of crimes. CPD has for years posted arrest information, including photographs of the arrestees, on a separate website.