CPD: Fear of Retaliation Drives Community Code of Silence

Unsolved murder cases like that of Marissa Boyd-Stingley are a chronic problem in Chicago. Why are some witnesses unwilling to share information with police? And what is the Chicago Police Department trying to do address the problem? We asked CPD's Chief of Detectives Gene Roy and Director of News Affairs Anthony Guglielmi to weigh in.

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Chicago Tonight: How much of a factor are witness accounts?

Gene Roy: It's critical. It’s critical for us to have witness accounts of the crime, because, first of all, we need the information to start our search. Who are we looking for? Who did this, what kind of a car do they drive? So, when we have people who refuse to talk to us at all, we don't even get those first few nuggets that we need to progress in the investigation. And then, once we get to point where we have an idea of who did it, who’s the offender responsible for this, now we need people to step forward and look at the photo array, and say ‘Yes, this is so and so. This is the one who was driving the car, this is the one who went out and fired the shots that struck and killed this person.’ It’s critical.

CT: Is this a chronic challenge for CPD?

Roy: Yes, it is.

Anthony Guglielmi: I came from Baltimore. And Baltimore police struggled with this. The famous “stop snitching” video that went around on YouTube a couple of years ago, that was made in Baltimore. So, they’ve been on the front lines of this as well. My point is, it’s not just an issue that plagues Chicago.

CT: Any thought on why the community doesn’t want to tell what they know?

Roy: It can come from a variety of factors. Number one, the biggest factor is the fear of getting involved, the fear of retaliation. That’s a valid concern. We have strategies and programs in place that we can alleviate concerns and resolve that question. It’s a part of life as a being involved in a street gang. Your loyalty is to your gang, and not your neighborhood, your city, not other people.

Guglielmi: I'm sure trust has a piece of it, too. That's why the superintendent has been so big on trying to really focus on community partnership and engagement. Because, if people don't have faith in us, we're only as strong as their belief in the department. He’s said that countless times. I think it has to be mentioned that trust is a big part of it as well.

Related: Witness Cooperation in Murder Cases a Chronic Problem in Chicago

CT: What more can CPD do? The community?

Roy: First of all, I think, it starts with us. We do have to have strong positive relationships with the community. The community has to trust us. I'm a firm believer in that. We're moving in that direction. We’re doing things we need to do to rebuild those partnerships and to build that bond. The community at some point, and I don't care what part of the city you're in, the community has to realize that we're all here for the common good. To build upon it take a village to raise a child: it takes a city, a community to make the city safe. Everybody has their role, everybody needs to pitch in.

Guglielmi: Part of the superintendent’s focus is, if we want to get information, we have to be better at sharing information. So, he has challenged not only my office, but all the district commanders to really communicate to the neighborhoods that we serve. Share with them what’s happening in their communities and they, in turn, can give us real-time intelligence. That’s why you’ve seen a real big investment in things like social media, from the Department’s perspective. We’re putting a lot more information out, not only to you all, but through social media channels and applications to be transparent, and to let people know that, if a crime is a occurring in someone’s neighborhood, they have an obligation and a right to know about it. And, whatever they know that might be able to help us, we’re hoping they will do that in return.

CT: Is the community holding itself to a different standard than the one it holds its officers to, in cases of officer-involved shootings or deaths?

Guglielmi: What we hope for is that, whatever the crime, someone has been wronged, and some poor family has been tormented and traumatized. As a society, as a city, we have an obligation to not only prevent those from occurring, but to help those communities that are suffering from these acts. So one would hope that any individual that witnesses that type of activity, steps up and does the right thing. There’s nothing for me to be able to point to that shows any direct correlation between Laquan McDonald and witness cooperation because it's been happening for years, we've struggled with this challenge. Not only Chicago, but major cities have often struggled with these things. I think it has more to do with certain communities, socioeconomic status. You have some communities that are extremely cooperative with police, and others are not.

I think we need to do a better job to get everybody on the same level. Whether that means restoring trust in minority communities which the superintendent has really been focused on. We want to have a more consistent response to information-sharing when crime occurs.

Roy: I'd like to point out, despite the  fact that we have a lot of challenges, a lot of obstacles not just limited to the no-snitch culture, we've got an extremely dedicated and professional group of detectives, who refuse to accept defeat and keep working on these cases. The Tyshawn Lee Case is a perfect example. That was a mixed bag, some people were cooperative and other people were very hostile.

Guglielmi: I think when you have that level of passion and commitment, there are few things that stand in the way of progress. I think that's why we are successful in some cases where we don't have witness cooperation. It's because they [detectives] keep working those individuals, they keep finding other forms of evidence to make their cases. So, something has to be said for the tenacity of the detectives.

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