Public defender unloads on Superintendent Johnson over gun database

CHICAGO — Another week, another round of finger-pointing over who’s responsible for stopping Chicago’s gun violence.

On Wednesday, Cook County Public Defender Amy Campanelli unloaded on Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson.

“He needs to look within,” she said. “Do we need another Police Accountability Task Force to tell him what his police officers have been doing for the last 40 years and why the community doesn’t trust them?”

Campanelli set her sights on Johnson after he unveiled the gun offender dashboard Monday.

The website will track felony gun cases through the Cook County court system.

Johnson said the "Gun Offenders Dashboard" also tracks whether those accused of gun offenses were able to post bail.

Johnson said the point of the website is not to blame judges for someone committing a crime with a gun, but to send a message of accountability.

Johnson has long blamed Chicago's continuing violence on gun offenders who quickly bond out and return to their violent ways.

Johnson said the public needs to know about gun offenders released on bond who commit violent offenses.

“This is just merely an attempt to be transparent with everything we have going on in the judicial system,” Johnson said.
Campanelli is demanding Johnson take down the website.

“Even sex offenders don’t go on a registry until they’ve been convicted,” Campanelli said. “He has now put out all these people’s names on a dashboard who have not been convicted of the offense they are charged with and made them wear a Scarlett Letter.”

Campanelli said the term “gun offender” includes anyone who illegally possesses a gun even someone who did not commit a violent offense. Also, she said the website mistakes the various types of bonds.

“The people that the judges are releasing on bond are not a danger or a flight risk,” she said.

On Monday, Johnson said police, prosecutors and judges must all do a better job.

“I’m not blaming judges for somebody else going out there picking up a gun and using it but what I do need their help on is sending that message of accountability,” he said.

Campanelli said it’s Johnson who needs to do better.

“Stop writing false police reports. Stop harassing people in certain neighborhoods and arresting whoever you feel like because they’re black and brown. Stop going into the wrong houses for search warrants and getting away with it,” she said.

CPD issued a response late Wednesday and said:

We will be drafting a formal response to Cook County Public Defender Campanelli. In the end, public defenders have a role to play and we respect that. Our job, however, is to be the voice for the voiceless - the victims of gun violence, not the perpetrators. All data in the bond portal is public, and is consistent with the information that most counties in Illinois already readily supply to their communities. Chicago has a right to a transparent criminal justice system, and we aim to help create it.

It is the just latest skirmish in this battle. Last month, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle criticized Johnson and said, “The superintendent needs to figure out how to improve his closure rate for murders and for shootings if we’re going to address the violence in our neighborhoods.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot defended Johnson against her former campaign rival’s attack.

“It’s July, not March, the election’s over,” she said.

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