Last year, the Chicago Police Department announced what it said was a multi-year effort to reform itself in the wake of a 2014 video that showed a white cop shooting a black teenager 16 times. Last year, the officer was found guilty of second-degree murder. CPD said the reform would result in improved policing and public accountability.
Yet less than two week ago, Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson was fired for what Mayor Lori Lightfoot described as “ethical lapses.”
Rather than retrench and restore public confidence in a battered department, CPD is taking on a new foe: Facebook. Even as First Deputy Police Supt. Anthony Riccio announced the arrests of dozens of people for allegedly using the social media giant to sell drugs and guns, he lashed out at Facebook, claiming that it is “harboring criminals.”
While it’s undoubtedly easier to attack Facebook than to fix the city’s police department, it makes many observers wonder about priorities at CPD.
Riccio said over the past two years, undercover Bureau of Organized Crime officers created fake Facebook accounts to join private groups and purchase firearms and narcotics. In the course of the investigation, 53 people have been arrested.
A Facebook spokesperson said the company works with law enforcement agencies to proactively fight illegal activities. “Illicit drug and firearms sales have no place on our platform,” the spokesperson said, but acknowledged that the social media company is at odds with police over its policy that removes fake accounts – even when those accounts are created by undercover cops.
Riccio says guns sold on Facebook are for more than their street value “because the purchasers know they are buying them discreetly.”
Those charged with drugs or weapons crimes should contact Chicago defense attorney Darryl A. Goldberg at 773-793-3196 to schedule a free initial consultation.