Cheryl Corley | KNKX

Cheryl Corley

With the rise of videos showing violent and often deadly encounters between police and citizens, there's also been an increase in the creation or expansion of civilian oversight groups to monitor police departments. Today, there are about 18,000 police departments in the U.S. and, according to the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement, there are about 200 civilian groups that monitor police.

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All over America today, students staged walkouts to protest school shootings. Let's hear now from Chicago where students rallied against the wider epidemic of gun violence in their city. NPR's Cheryl Corley has this report.

No one knows how many people wrongfully convicted of crimes are in prison, but last year 139 of them were exonerated. That's a drop from 2016, when there were 171 such cases.

The numbers released today by the National Registry of Exonerations shows that Texas still led the nation with 23 exonerees last year followed by Illinois (21), Michigan (14) and New York (13).

A fatal police shooting in Kansas late last month focused attention again on how so-called swatting — prank 911 calls designed to get SWAT teams to deploy — puts lives at risk and burdens police departments.

There are more than 7,000 911 centers in the U.S. and, according to the National Emergency Number Association, they receive about 600,000 calls a day. Authorities don't track swatting calls nationally, though the FBI has been monitoring the practice of those types of fake calls for about a decade.

In Chicago, an odd mix of brazen action by detainees in jail and declining budgets is keeping public defenders from talking to their clients in the lockup areas behind county courtrooms.

Cook County Public Defender Amy Campanelli says this will continue until authorities can find a way to stop some of the men in custody from exposing themselves to female attorneys.

If you've ever called 911 to report an emergency, thank the Johnson Crime Commission. Establishing a national emergency number was just one of more than 200 recommendations the Commission offered up in a landmark 1967 report "for a safer and more just society."

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The design for the Obama Presidential Center was unveiled Wednesday at an event attended by former President Obama and Michelle Obama.

The Center, slated to be completed in 2021, will be located in the Jackson Park neighborhood of Chicago's South side and it will include three buildings — a museum, forum and library that surround a public plaza.

A century ago, it was one of the biggest names in retail. Now, even Sears officials say its future could be in doubt — though they say they have plans to make sure the retail icon survives.

Nancy Koehn with the Harvard Business School says that in its early days, Sears Roebuck and Co. was like Amazon is today — a retailer of great disruption.

For Sears, it meant a path-breaking strategy of offering all sorts of merchandise in catalogs and building department stores in remote places with ample parking.

As gun violence continues to plague some of Chicago's neighborhoods, a violence prevention program is looking to tackle the issue by treating it like a public health crisis.

Chicago's murder rate is below that of other cities, but the actual number of murders in the city last year — most from gun violence — exceeded the combined total of murders in New York City and Los Angeles.

Algonquin, Ill., is a Republican stronghold. The growing town of 28,000 is about an hour's drive northwest of Chicago in McHenry County, the only one of six in the metro area to vote for President Trump.

At Short Stacks, a small diner on Main Street, Ginger Underwood sits at a table with her two adult daughters. She voted for Donald Trump and says that, so far, she is glad she did.

"I think Trump is doing exactly what he said he was going to do when he ran for office," she says. "So that's fine with me, that he's doing what he's doing."

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Deadly encounters between police and civilians often made 2016 a year full of palpable tension. Across the country, demonstrators took to the streets to protest police shootings, while at the same time officers in a number of states were targeted and killed by gunmen.

Both situations have prompted law enforcement to examine use-of-force policies.

With Donald Trump's choices for secretaries of transportation and of housing and urban development — Elaine Chao and Dr. Ben Carson, respectively — there may be hints about the urban agenda Trump's administration may be shaping.

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Each of the photos in Capt. William A. Prickitt's album could fit in a locket: headshots of 17 black soldiers who served under the Union Army officer during the Civil War, most of their names handwritten on the mat surrounding the images.

At just 2 inches tall, the square, leather-bound album itself could be easily misplaced among the more than 35,000 artifacts it will join at the Smithsonian's new National Museum of African American History and Culture when it opens this week in Washington, D.C.

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Tacarra Morgan lives in a big two-story, A-frame house that sits next to an empty, grassy corner lot on Chicago's South Side.

On a sunny afternoon earlier in July, gunfire broke out while the 6-year-old sat on the porch with her grandmother and her mother, Carolyn Morris.

"All l I know, bullets starting coming from that way. I didn't see who was shooting," Morris says. "I didn't see anything and my daughter is so strong, I didn't even know she was shot."

They all ran in the house; all Tacarra said was that her stomach hurt, her mother recalls.

In churches across the country, pastors, priests and other religious leaders will talk to a nation still reeling from this past week's fatal shootings of two black men by police officers and the death of five police officers slain by a lone gunman. People often turn to faith during times of crisis — attending services and listening to sermons.

Tiny homes, which can be as little as 50 to 300 square feet, are growing in popularity as a solution for the homeless. In Chicago, advocates want to build tiny houses to serve a specific marginalized group — homeless youth, especially those who identify as LGBTQ.

Chicago's North Broadway Street is always bustling, but in the past few weeks, it has been noisier than ever. There is water flowing from an open fire hydrant, and as traffic inches by, a cement truck backs up and pours concrete down into a big hole in the street.

"Well, we always say there's two seasons: either winter and construction," says Maureen Martino, the executive director of the Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce. This water main upgrade is only the beginning; Martino says the city has plenty more scheduled for the area this year.

It was a controversial move when Madison, Wis., decided to replace all its lead pipes in 2001. But that decision put the city ahead of the curve — allowing it to avoid the lead water contamination that is plaguing cities like Flint, Mich., now.

Madison started using copper instead of lead water pipes in the late 1920s. The bulk of the lead lines were located in the older part of the city, which is downtown near Wisconsin's state Capitol.

The once routine practice of getting a glass of water before a restaurant meal in Flint, Mich., is now fraught with apprehension, since lead pipes started leaching into the drinking water after officials switched to the highly corrosive Flint River as the city's water supply.

More than a year ago, 18-year-old Michael Brown's death in a police shooting roiled the small town of Ferguson, Mo., and sparked nationwide protests. Recovery and negotiations have been going on since then, but residents have different ideas about how the city should move forward.

Next week, a negotiated settlement between the city and the Justice Department overhauling the department's practices will come up for a city council vote.

In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been fending off increasing calls for his resignation. There's also an effort underway to develop a recall law that would allow voters to replace Emanuel before the next election.

"On the defensive" was not a phrase often associated with Emanuel, but that has changed since the city released a video of the fatal police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

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After months of negotiations, the battle over locker room access for a transgender student in Illinois ended late last night when Township High School District 211 — about 30 miles northwest of Chicago — approved a deal with the Department of Education.

For nearly three hours, the board met in a closed session — ultimately voting yes on the agreement which allows the transgender student to use private areas within the locker room.

For high school students looking to choose a college, grade-point averages and test scores may weigh heavily on their minds. But campus atmosphere may not be far behind given recent demonstrations on college campuses across the country.

Students at the University of Missouri's flagship campus in Columbia were the forefront of a wave of protests over racist incidents and the reaction of school officials. For some high school students, those protests make racial relations factor highly in their college search.

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