As Chicago Police Supt. David Brown fields questions from reporters during his regular press conferences, he draws occasional sips from a coffee mug. We don’t know what Brown drinks from his mug, but it’s definitely not truth serum.
Brown’s post-weekend press conferences from yesterday and last week were chock full of moving targets, cherry-picked statistics, and some statements that show a stunning lack of knowledge about his department’s operation. Or maybe he’s just lying.
Slow it down a little bit
Brown delivered one of his biggest whoppers on Tuesday after a reporter asked him about the continual cancellations of days off for the city’s cops. The reporter said some officers had worked 11 days straight.
“I don’t know where you get the 11 days in a row,” Brown quickly replied. “So let’s just slow it down a little bit.”
Well, one place to get the 11 days in a row is by looking at the Chicago Police Department’s 2022 Operations Calendar, an eyeball-bending chart that is used departmentwide to keep track of days off, court dates, and other information.
CPD assigns Chicago cops to one of many rotating “days off groups” so the department can maintain 24/7 operations. As Brown spoke on Tuesday, cops in group #66 were enjoying their first day off after working — wait for it — 11 days straight. They were supposed to be off last Wednesday and Thursday, but the department cancelled those.
Cops in group 61 had just finished working 10 days straight as Brown spoke.
Group 62 will work 11 days straight later this month because Brown personally cancelled days off for cops between June 14 and June 20 in an email Monday night. Others will once again slog through 10 days straight.
But that’s not all. When another set of cancelled days is factored in, some members of Group 65 are working 17 days in a row. They were last off on May 18 and they won’t be off again until Sunday. Those cops will have a total of three days off between May 19 and June 21.
Brown also said that the police department “never” cancels an officer’s holidays. Yet, the department just cancelled all days off over Memorial Day weekend and Brown personally sent an email less than 24 hours earlier cancelling all days off for Juneteenth and Father’s Day weekend. In a separate email Monday night, Brown said the department would likely cancel all days off for the Fourth of July weekend, too. In recent years, CPD has regularly cancelled days off for officers on major holidays between May and September.
The last decade
Chicagoans who watched Brown’s press conference last week may have suffered whiplash Tuesday when he talked about Memorial Day weekend, which saw the most shootings for the holiday weekend since 2016.
Last Monday, Brown raved about the just-concluded weekend as he compared it to the same weekend in 2021.
“This weekend Chicago saw decreases in shootings, shooting victims and homicides compared to the same weekend in 2021. Compared to that same weekend, shootings were down 44% shooting victims were down 39% and homicides were down 89%. That’s this same weekend compared to the previous weekend in 2021.,” he bragged.
High temperatures on May 21 and 22 were 63° and 65° in Chicago compared to 87° and 82° the same weekend last year. But let’s not quibble.
Yesterday, fresh off the worst Memorial Day weekend in five years, a reporter asked Brown what happened.
Suddenly, Brown didn’t want to compare Memorial Day weekend to last year’s Memorial Day weekend.
“So, just to put it in context,” Brown said, “we look at the last decade of Memorial Day weekends … we were about the same level of violent crime that we’ve seen over the last decade.”
“You really need to look at ten years and this one was somewhere not at the top or bottom.”
CTA “crime” down
Last week, Brown told reporters that the department “added 130 officers to CTA since March.” He went on to claim that, compared to 2019, CTA crime was down 46%.
In fact, total crime across all CTA trains, buses, platforms, stations, and other property, is down compared to 2019, according to city records. Of course, ridership is also down sharply thanks to COVID.
But the kinds of crime that are down may not be the ones riders are most concerned about.
Through May 15, there were 1,029 fewer crimes on the entire CTA system this year compared to the same period in pre-COVID 2019, city record show. About half of the reduction is because of a decline in thefts and pick-pocketing, which makes sense since there are far fewer passengers to pickpocket and steal from.
The other half of the reduction is due to a 63% drop in criminal damage cases (think graffiti), 56 fewer trespassing cases, 194 fewer cases of turnstile jumping and fraud at Ventra machines, and 35 fewer narcotics arrests. Those reductions may result from relaxed enforcement rather than decreased crime.
Meanwhile, murders on CTA increased from zero in 2019 to one as of May 15. Another CTA passenger was stabbed to death on a Blue Line train hours after Brown’s press conference.
In other crimes of concern: non-fatal shootings were up from three to seven through May 15. Criminal sexual assaults were up from two in 2019 to ten this year. Robberies were up from 194 to 204. Stabbings through May 15 were up from 23 to 30. And, again, those increases came with fewer riders.
And the statistics don’t include crimes that, technically, didn’t occur on CTA property. Like the mass shooting last month in which a gunman fired from the top of the Chicago Red Line station’s escalator into a passing group of people. Or the 16-year-old ambushed as he stepped onto the sidewalk from a CTA escalator at the Grand Red Line station.
Yesterday, Brown made another claim: “On our CTA, since we added more resources in the past 27 days, CTA crime is down 10% these last 27 days since we’ve added additional resources.”
In fact, Brown, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CTA President Dorval Carter announced their revamped CTA security plan on March 9, not 27 days ago.
We wanted to know what period of time Brown used to make his claim about a 10% reduction in CTA crime. Is it compared to the same 27 days last year? Four years ago? 2019? A decade?
Nope. According to a CPD spokesperson, Brown is comparing the most recent 28 days (yes, 28) with the 28 days immediately before. The most recent crime data available on the city’s data portal is from May 24, so it’s not possible to fact check Brown’s claim.
But, here’s what the city’s data says about other periods of time.
All CTA crime May 1 to May 24 annually:
2019 – 421
2020 – 184
2021 – 148
2022 – 235
All CTA crime for the first 24 days of each month in 2022:
March – 207
April – 233
May – 235