We have been organizing against police militarization in Chicago for over 2 years, since our involvement with the We Charge Genocide effort. Here are several important updates from our work this summer:
After several months of FOIA requests and data analysis, AFSC Chicago staff Debbie Southorn, along with journalist Sarah Lazare, co-authored this in-depth report published by The Intercept on the ways that Chicago Police use SWAT teams to respond to mental health crises:
"How Do Chicago Police Treat Mental Health? With SWAT Raids" by Sarah Lazare & Debbie Southorn
SWAT deployments to mental health crises are usually logged as “hostage, barricaded subject or terrorist” incidents. Though not a single raid since 2013 has been recorded specifically as a “terrorist” event, the logic of a “counterterror” approach to policing drives militarized responses to mental health crises. And local law enforcement agencies receive federal government counterterror funding to bankroll training and equipment for SWAT teams. All this comes amid austerity and privatization that has diminished public mental health services — Chicago, for instance, has closed half of its public mental health clinics since 2012. Armored teams of cops have become expensive hammers in search of nails. In Chicago, they have found some of the city’s most vulnerable residents, disproportionately targeting African-American, Latino, and poor people.
Because the Chicago Police Department has refused to release records of SWAT logs before 2013 (the year Chicago closed half of its mental health clinics, and privatized the remaining clinics), AFSC Staff Debbie Southorn and journalist Sarah Lazare filed a lawsuit against CPD.
Read more about that lawsuit:
"Journalists Sue Chicago Police Over Hidden Records of SWAT Responses to Mental Health Crises" - Andy Thayer, Lovey & Lovey Blog. August 7th, 2017
"Journalist, Community Activist Sue CPD" - Christopher Shuttlesworth, Chicago Citizen, 8.23.17