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Chicago's Gun Offender Dashboard aims to keep violent criminals in jail, but raises due process concerns

Fair use of public information, or fear-mongering?

Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Chicago police unveiled an online database that allows the public to easily view a list of suspects charged with gun offenses and whether they were released on bail, hoping to draw attention to the alleged problem of too many violent criminals quickly getting back on the street due to low bail amounts.

Critics of the database, called the Gun Offender Dashboard, say the database is harmful in that it paints those simply accused with gun-related crimes (not just violent crimes) as "offenders" even though they have not, and may never be, convicted of the crimes, the Associated Press reported.

"These are not offenders, they're arrestees," said Stephanie Kollman, policy director of the Children and Family Justice Center at Northwestern University's law school, to AP.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson believe that rules requiring judges to set affordable bail amounts for suspects who are deemed not to be a danger to the community have emboldened violent criminals, who see that they can get out of jail relatively easily on gun charges.

Johnson said he just wants the information out and easily accessible to those who are interested in it.

"If we're OK with how things are going, then don't look at it," Johnson said. "But if you want to know why we are suffering from some of the things we are, then take a look at it and come to your own conclusions."

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said the problem is that police aren't doing a good enough job of making arrests for violent crimes, not that people are posting bail too easily. Preckwinkle noted that arrests are made in only 1 in 4 homicides and 1 in 20 shootings in Chicago.

Cook County Public Defender Amy Campanelli took issue with the presentation of people on the database as already guilty.

"The people on this list have not been convicted of the crimes for which they were charged," Campanelli said in a statement. "Yet CPD is flaunting bond court stats as if they have already been convicted."

One last thing…
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