The Chicago Police Department’s “Strategic Subject List” draws criticism but also saves lives


Videos by Rare

Videos by Rare

Last year, a story broke about the Chicago Police Department’s Strategic Subject List (SSL) that attempts to predict both victims and perpetrators of crime.

The efficiency of such a program is still to be determined as some have raised complaints that the system unfairly targets minority communities and leads to more arrests than the social services it is allegedly trying to connect people to.

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The SSL has been used since 2012 and was secret until the Chicago Sun-Times successfully fought in court to release the records last summer.

The police department has been criticized for its use of the list without being clear as to the process or having any transparency about the list. Last night, a segment on 60 Minutes went in depth on how the program actually works.

Scott Pelley interviewed multiple people, such as documented gang member Ernest Smith, social worker Charles Perry who spent nearly twenty years in prison for past crimes, executive director of the Chicago Violence Reduction Strategy Chris Mallette, and others.

The segment focuses specifically on Smith, who through the help of the program and Perry’s assistance getting an ID provided him with a path to getting his first job at the age of 31.

“Man, it was like heaven, you know?” Smith said. “Even though I was a drug dealer, you know, like, I always, kind of, had money, but it feels different when you work for it. I wanna keep working. I don’t ever wanna go back to the streets.”

Donna Hall works with the program, trying to help those at risk turn their lives around. She lost her son to gun violence in 2013. “We the community, we have to get on the front line,” she said. “I don’t like to march. I’m not marchin’. Because you can’t hear me in a crowd.”

Pelley also interviewed Jamal Cain who was on the SSL and approached by officers and social workers but refused help. He is currently in jail on a charge of gun possession.

“I’m not necessarily a bad person,” Cain said. “It’s just the things I do may be bad, if you grow up and you see everybody sellin’ drugs, gettin’ money the fast way, you wanna do it. It don’t necessarily mean you wanna be violent. Violence has come along with the way life that we live.”

Mallete echoed this statement. “We don’t necessarily consider these guys to be bad people. They could just be very dangerous at times. And there’s a bit of a difference.”

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Smith’s story is a success story. He has no desire to return to a life of violence and crime, even after his girlfriend and mother of his children was murdered. “I learned to wait and be patient, you know, and ever since good things been happening and coming through the door for me.”

But as Chicago is coming out of another violent year, it will take more than this list to get the city where it needs to be in crime reduction. The city is stepping up the police force and increasing Strategic Decision Support Centers, that are also intended to help prevent crime by focusing officers in specific areas where crime is a problem.

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