Friday, May 25, 2012

In Memory

by Colonel Paul Herbert, Executive Director of the First Division Museum

Memorial Day is to honor those who died in military service to our country - people like Samuel T. Watts, 20, of Wheaton, Illinois, who died May 19, 2012, of wounds sustained in combat in Afghanistan.

I think we should remember each of them as a distinct person, equally entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Each put that at risk for us - their loss was of a future, of hopes, plans and dreams once held.

We should remember their families and friends, who sometimes grieve forever and often feel guilt we can’t assuage. Could I have prevented his death? What if I had insisted that he not go? Should I have gone in his place?

We should remember that they were not "sacrificed." On the contrary, someone hoped and prayed and longed for the safe return of each. Each died in faith in us that his (or her) service, with all its dangers, was necessary. As Abraham Lincoln said so well, we cannot add or detract from the honor they paid us by such faith.

We should carry them in our hearts forever. We should gather occasionally to honor them. Mostly, we should live our lives with gratitude, and build lives and families and communities and a country worthy of their faithful service. Lincoln reminded us that from our honored dead, it is for us, the living, to be consecrated to the great tasks remaining before us. We have such tasks.

We should conclude a Memorial Day as Lincoln concluded:

"We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the people and for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Thank you, Sam. Rest in peace.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Chicago Reporter Keeps Churning Out Top Work

by Mark Hallett, Senior Program Officer, Journalism Program

Last Friday at a Chicago Headline Club event with some 350 in attendance, the local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists unveiled another year’s worth of Lisagor awards—more than 100 of them. By our count, the Trib came away with 13, the Sun-Times eight, WBEZ six Crain’s and the Southtown Star four apiece. Topics ranged from military couples to immigration limbo, pension games to corruption in Cicero to criminals fleeing the country. Reading through the list of winners is truly inspiring. We’re lucky to have so much rich talent in the Chicago area.

Oh, and the Chicago Reporter, the nonprofit investigative outfit headed by Kimbriell Kelly and housed at 130-year-old Community Renewal Society, took eight. At McCormick, we’ve been supporters of the Reporter for many years, and are amazed at its sustained, inspired work. We thought we’d ask Angela Caputo, who was named in three of the Reporter’s awards, to walk us through a recent story.

In the current issue online, the feature story is “Abusing the Badge.” This nifty piece of reporting reveals that:
  • 1 in 4: The number of investigations of police misconduct opened by the Independent Police Review Authority in 2010 that are still open
  • $45.5 million: Total payments between January 2009 and November 2011 by the City of Chicago in damages
  • 91%: The percentage of lawsuits reviewed by the Independent Police Review Authority that ended without an investigation because they weren’t backed by a sworn affidavit

But perhaps most remarkably, the story identifies 140 “repeaters,” police officers who were named in at least two cases. They represent 1 percent of the entire force. And the story names names; as it turns out, 1/3 of this group of repeaters was named in 5 or more police misconduct suits in the past decade.

We asked Angela to lay out the story:
  • On timing and resources: "I started the police story in mid-February and we went to the printer April 14. I had one primary intern—a recent Medill grad, Yisrael Shapiro—working with me. A couple other interns chipped in an hour here and there."
  • On compiling data: "I started the project by compiling city settlement reports in an Excel file. My primary data set was a build out from that. The city reports include the case number related to each settlement, the damages paid by the city. Yisrael and I went into pacer to download most of the related files. I pulled others manually from the Cook County courthouses. In those court case files, we found the police officer’s names and the addresses where the alleged misconduct occurred. We logged all of that info into that main spreadsheet. I then used mapping software, Access and Excel to analyze it."
  • Analyzing multiple databases: "I also downloaded city payroll data to see which of the officers are still on the department’s payroll. I did the same with a database of police board rulings to see which of the 'repeaters' faced discipline."
  • Requesting information through FOIA: "Also, through FOIA, I got some great data from the Independent Police Review Authority. They gave me two sets of files—one data set of all complaints and another of closed investigations--which I joined in Access then analyzed in Excel. I also used FOIA to get police reports from CPD to learn the nitty-gritty about some of the allegations. I also FOIA’d the state’s attorney’s office to see how many police officers are facing prosecution in the criminal courts. I looked those up manually at the courthouse as well."
  • On what surprised her the most: "That a vast majority of the allegations behind police misconduct settlements are never investigated. In 91 percent of the complaints forwarded from the civil courts to the Independent Police Review Authority, an investigation was never opened. Where’s the oversight?"

Preserving the Public in Public Schools

by Shawn Healy, Resident Scholar, Civics Program

"…We educate children for a number of reasons, but ultimately to preserve our democratic republic."
Preserving the Public in Public Schools

But not everyone believes that. For some, preserving prosperity is the current rage, with schools placing an increased emphasis on reading and math, skills deemed essential by the business community. Lost in the process is the commitment to developing good citizens, the foundation for a strong democracy.

In their recently published book, Preserving the Public in Public Schools, Phil Boyle and Del Burns argue that public schools in the United States have served as the perennial battleground for the nation’s competing ideals of a good society.

The authors believe that the debate surrounding the purpose of public education consistently focuses on the issues of liberty, community, equality and prosperity. They contend:
  • Liberty manifests itself best in the current debate over school choice—neighborhood schools, charter schools, magnet schools, or publically-funded vouchers to attend parochial schools.
  • Community is emphasized when we "help students learn to function as effective citizens in a democracy", and "design school experiences to nurture in all children the habits of judgment that democratic life requires."
  • Equality remains the "great unfinished task of American democracy", as our schools remain segregated by race, class, and increasingly, student performance.

When the balance shifts toward a prosperity-based model, the civic health of our communities is weakened, and the underlying fabric of our democracy frayed. Boyle and Burns suggest that we re-balance the equation by aligning economic goals for schools with those that are more democratic. We should teach students to balance self-interest and the common good.

Boyle and Burns leave us to ponder this question: "Shouldn’t education not only prepare children for this world but also develop their potential to help make a better one?"