The Chicago Police Department (CPD) yesterday announced that it's using anti-riot-style policing to stop a supposed criminal trend dubbed "wilding."
Police Supt. Garry McCarthy warned gravely that "kids [are] coming up and causing mayhem downtown" and that "over the weekend we had at least five or six examples of large groups of kids coming off the CTA that we escorted around basically like NATO protesters, which is the tactic that we used last year that was so effective."
That's not their only tactic, though. The situation is so serious, the law enforcement agency is also "having police prisoner vans ready and very visible in case arrests need to be made," explains one local CBS newscaster.
What the hell is wilding, you may ask. "Smashed cars, violent fights, and at times, pure chaos," another CBS newscaster claims. But, apparently, it's also teenagers blocking sidewalks, shouting mean things, and sometimes just moving in large groups.
But, let's be clear: There is actually no such thing as wilding. It didn't exist four years ago when New York Magazine swore that it's "really catching on." It didn't exist 25 years ago when cops coined the term in relation to a single, isolated incident. These are just random acts of delinquency and violence—no different than the ones for which Chicago already crafts counterproductive policies—onto which the media has latched and deemed a trend. After all, it's easy to convince people that today's youths are always getting themselves into some really crazy, dangerous shit. Remember when media outlets swore the knockout game was real? Or that the new cool teen hobby was bomb-building? Let us not even tread into the territory of beezin' and butt chugging.
Such urban legends aren't always harmless. They create undue social tension and paranoia, and people start excusing bad policies proposed to combat the problems that are either nonexistent or misunderstood. In the case of the knockout game, lawmakers across the country crafted hazy, wide-reaching legislation.
Wilding is just the flavor of the month. At best, the CPD is just talking up its own policing prowess. But, if it's not, people should recall the policies that McCarthy employed and now lauds as "so effective" during the 2012 NATO protest: a militarized riot patrol that was accused of dozens of incidents brutality. Those protesters weren't all peace signs and flower power, but there's no way to justify using the same beefed-up law enforcement strategies against the citizens of Chicago on a daily basis. As one Huffington Post writer noted at the time of the protests, when the CPD isn't under the kind of media scrutiny it saw then, it behaves even worse. What can we expect when the department, which has spent $500 million in the last decade resolving lawsuits against itself, gets the media's approval?