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Chicago’s low homicide clearance in national spotlight

Pam Bosley, whose son was murdered, speaks to the media during the Spike Lee press conference on the new film being filmed in Chicago, Thursday, May 14, 2015. | Brian Jackson/For the Sun-Times

“In Chicago, fewer than 30 percent of homicides resulted in an arrest compared with over 70 percent in Austin, TX,” according to a recent study by the Washington Post.

That national publication documented homicides in more than 50 major cities over the past decade and confirmed what black people have always believed.

African-Americans are being killed with impunity, not only large cities like Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit and Philadelphia, but in smaller majority-white cities, the Post found.

This is not news to anyone who has lost a child to gun violence in this city.


Pam Bosley, the mother of Terrell Bosley, who was shot and killed outside a church in Chicago in 2006, has become the face of parents dealing with unsolved homicides.

Her son’s murder remains unsolved, even though she’s done everything from putting up a billboard to offering a monetary cash reward in an effort to find her son’s killer.

Part of the blame for unsolved cases falls on the shoulders of the department’s investigators, Bosley told me.

“If detectives were looking at our children as human beings, instead of trying to find out if they were involved in drugs and gangs, they would solve more cases. They don’t put forth the effort to solve these cases,” she said.

“If it were white boys being shot and killed in Chicago, there would be no way possible that there would be this many unsolved murders. It would not have gotten this far,” she said.

Pam Bosley holds a picture of her son Terrell Bosley, 18, during a gathering of gun violence victims and gun control advocates at Cornell Square Park on the anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting Dec. 14, 2013, in Chicago, Illinois. | Ph
Pam Bosley holds a picture of her son Terrell Bosley, 18, during a gathering of gun violence victims and gun control advocates at Cornell Square Park on the anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting Dec. 14, 2013, in Chicago, Illinois. | Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson did not respond to my request for comments on this issue.

But an African-American police officer recently told me no one wants to say anything after a fatal shooting.

“People will actually say, ‘that’s your job’ to figure out who did it,” the officer said.

Some argue that this issue is further complicated by the lack of African-American detectives on the department.

There are about 1068 detectives on the Chicago Police Department and only 157 detectives are African-American.

“Most crime is occurring in the black community and the public is very leery of the police, especially divulging information to a detective that doesn’t look like or understand them,” a police source told me.

When her son was murdered, Bosley said detectives spent “seven days” trying to find out what type of child he was.

She saw that as a lost of valuable time that could have been used chasing leads.

“I had somebody that did speak up that I met in the park, and the detectives didn’t follow through. The majority of the time when [the community] tries to trust them, they don’t follow through,” she said.

Our abysmal homicide clearance rate leads to fear in communities hardest hit by gun violence while also feeding a distrust of police officers.

Worse yet, when people don’t believe they are going to get legal justice, they are more likely to resort to street justice, and the cycle of violence continues.

Bosley channeled her grief through activism.

She co-founded “Purpose over Pain,” an advocacy group for parents who have lost their children to gun violence in 2007.

The majority of the parents she works with are also grieving unsolved murder cases.

“It’s the mothers who are going into the community, asking questions and passing out flyers and offering a $5,000 reward for information,” Bosley said.

St. Sabina has often stepped up with the reward money.

Telling the community that cooperating with police is the right thing to do is easy. And it shouldn’t take money for people to do the right thing.

But here’s the reality:

At the end of the shift, investigators go home to safe communities while people who cooperate with them have to watch their backs.

The Post found Chicago is not alone in failing to make arrests in the majority of homicides.

In 52 of the nation’s largest cities, “Police failed to make an arrest in nearly 26,000 killings, and in more than 18,600 cases the victims were black.”

The Rev. William Barber, a national civil rights leader, told the Washington Post that the failure to solve black homicides is “a civil rights crisis on par with questionable police shootings of minorities and wrongful convictions of black men.”

It is also a crisis that emerging black leadership on police reform will have to address.

These black lives matter as much as lives lost at the hands of police.