In a city like Chicago, it is understandable that the Police Department has a lot of work on their hands. However, when their work overload results in unfair arrests, something needs to change. It was recently revealed that in the first three months of this year, 601 individuals have waited outside of Chicago Police Department Headquarters to register as sex offenders only to be turned away because the office was too busy to register them. And failing to register, of course, is an offense that could land them in jail.
Not only are these citizens being prevented from taking a step to face and move past their crimes, they are also being set up for the possibly of arrest. One man, Bruce Harley, attempted to register in early February and was sent away for just this reason. A month later, he was arrested and put in prison for failure to register, with no consideration given to his attempt and dismissal. Similarly, a homeless man named Jerome Sanders was turned away by the Chicago Police when he attempted to register in January; this time, it was because he was unable to pay the 100 dollar annual fee required of registered sex offenders. He was then arrested mere weeks later for failure to register. In either case, the man's imprisonment is costing taxpayers more money each day than the amount he failed to pay for registering for the entire year. What's worse is that citizens like Harley and Sanders are attempting to follow their legal obligations, but the police are not reciprocating by honoring these attempts. It is hardly fair that these men are being punished.
Certainly there must be a better response than simply turning people away after they have waited for hours to abide by the law. While shooing these citizens away from their office may seem to rid them of the problem for the day, failing to allow lines of well-intentioned individuals to register causes the problem to just be diverted elsewhere. Besides the obvious destruction done to the lives of the men arrested for failure to register and the prison costs absorbed by taxpayers, public defenders also become over burdened when they are assigned these (unnecessary) cases, resulting in less availability for them to defend those cases that could not have been so easily avoided.
The CPD has issued a couple of brief statements to WBEZ news suggesting that they are aware of the issue and working towards correcting it for the future, but it will be interesting to see what changes are made—if any—from this exposure. After all, the issue is no longer a secret. It will be at least be difficult to avoid standing up to do the right thing.