The Crusader Newspaper Group

In Deeply Divided Chicago, Most Agree: City Is Off Course

By Monica Davey and Giovanni Russonello,

The people of Chicago are deeply riven by race, class and neighborhood, distrustful of the police, fearful of the growing rate of violent crime and united chiefly in their disapproval of the mayor’s performance and their conviction that the city is headed down the wrong track.

These are among findings of a new survey by The New York Times and the Kaiser Family Foundation, which polled residents of a city that has been upended in recent months by revelations of questionable actions by the police, threats of a teachers’ strike, a school funding crisis and an uptick in violence.

The poll finds broad discontent with the police and those charged with overseeing them, particularly among African-Americans. Residents expressed concerns about racial bias in shootings by officers and many show ambivalence about whether calling the police will ease situations or not make a difference.

Residents of Chicago, the nation’s third-largest city, appear to have lost faith in many of its essential institutions, including the police, courts and the public schools.

The sharpest levels of discontent appear among black residents on the South and West Sides. When it comes to hopes for young people, satisfaction with city services and — especially — expectations about interactions with the police, the divide between black and white Chicago is striking.

“It seems like the police can do anything and get away with it,” Enix Daniels, who is 50 and black and lives on the West Side, said in a follow-up interview. “There are no repercussions. If we do something, we have to pay a bond before we get out. If they do something, they get to sit at their desk.”

The survey was conducted as Chicago confronts a daunting array of problems. Six months ago, protesters took to the streets after the release of video showing a white Chicago police officer shooting a black teenager named Laquan McDonald 16 times. The Justice Department began an investigation into the Police Department, the police superintendent was fired and a task force last month issued a scathing report denouncing systemic racism at the department.

These problems and divides are not unique to Chicago. Cleveland, Baltimore and Ferguson, Mo., have all been convulsed after black people died in encounters with police officers, and neighborhood segregation and budget and school problems are common in the nation’s major cities. Here, though, the challenges reached a fever pitch all at once. And the survey shows how difficult it will be to win the trust of a divided city as it confronts some of the most fraught issues facing urban America today.


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