CHICAGO – On Wednesday, members of the Police Accountability Task Force presented comprehensive findings and recommendations to rebuild the fabric of trust between Chicago’s Police Department and the communities they serve. The Task Force was appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in December of last year in the wake of the delayed release of the video that depicted the shooting death of teenager Laquan McDonald.
The Task Force engaged in a robust community engagement process through five Working Groups whose members included a cross section of Chicagoans. The Working Groups met with a broad and diverse range of experts, organizations and individuals from all across the city. Over 750 people attended four community forums and citizens also submitted their experiences and reform suggestions by letter, through the website and over social media.
The Task Force report contains comprehensive findings based on that community input as well as detailed research; interviews with community, legal and civil rights organizations; current and former police officers; and young people across the city, as well as a review of best practices in other police departments. The report contains over 100 recommendations for reform.
“We heard Chicago citizens decry the lack of discipline for officers involved in wrongful shootings or other serious issues. They told us that community policing had once been effective, but now exists in name only. And residents of Chicago spoke of random police stops in which they are treated with distain, and fearful that any interaction with police could lead to violence against them,” said Task Force member Victor Dickson. “Unfortunately, our research supports those perceptions.”
· 74% of people killed or injured by Chicago police officers were African American, over the last eight years.
· 72% of people stopped by Chicago police in 2014 were African American, and 17% were Hispanic.
The Task Force acknowledges that policing is an increasingly challenging and often dangerous job. Illegal guns are awash in communities that are devastated by crime, poverty and unemployment. The Task Force met with many current and former Chicago police officers who are committed to performing their duties lawfully and making Chicago a safer place for all of its residents. The problem is that they appear to be doing so in spite of the system, rather than as a result of it.
“Overall, we found that good police are not supported or rewarded, while too many bad police are given a pass. Red flags about officers heading down the wrong path are not quickly and aggressively addressed, as they should be. And officers can go from the Training Academy to retirement with virtually no mandatory training in between,” said Task Force Chair Lori E. Lightfoot.. “The Department needs to invest in its human capital and professionalize the way it manages its people.”
The recommendations of the Task Force address three critical areas: the need for community empowerment, lack of accountability, and other systemic problems.
The following highlight some of the key recommendations from the report.
Create a Community Safety Oversight Board, a powerful platform and role for the community in police oversight
Implement a citywide Reconciliation Process beginning with the Superintendent publicly acknowledging CPD’s history of racial disparity and discrimination
Replace CAPS with localized Community Empowerment and Engagement Districts (CEED) for each of the city’s 22 police districts; under CEED, district commanders and other leadership would work with local stakeholders to develop tailored community policing strategies
Invest in beat-based policing and expand community patrols so that officers get to know and engage with the communities they serve; build relationships with young people
Promote constitutional rights through attorney access and “Know Your Rights” trainings
ADDRESSING OTHER SYSTEMIC PROBLEMS
Replace the Independent Police Review Authority with an empowered, fully transparent and accountable Civilian Police Investigative Agency, which will enhance structural protections, powers and resources for investigating serious cases of police misconduct, even in the absence of sworn complaints
Create a dedicated Inspector General for Public Safety to independently audit and monitor CPD and the police oversight system, including for patterns of racial bias
Require that all disciplinary information be provided online so that citizens can track complaints and discipline histories
Implement an Early Intervention System for CPD to identify officers with problems before they become problems for the community
ADDRESSING OTHER SYSTEMIC PROBLEMS
Dismantle the institutionalization of the police “code of silence,” including changes to the police unions’ collective bargaining agreements, ending command channel review, reforming the role of CPD supervisors and prioritizing pattern and practice analysis
Create a “Mental Health Critical Response Unit” within CPD that is responsible for mental health crisis response functions, including training, support, community outreach and engagement, cross-agency co-ordination and data collection
Establish a smart 911 system for the Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC), allowing residents to pre-enter information on mental health or other issues that would be instantly available to 911 operators
Create a multi-layer co-responder system where mental health providers work with OEMC and CPD to link individuals to treatment
Expand significantly the Crisis Intervention Teams for CPD and other first responders.
Establish a Deputy Chief of Diversity and Inclusion
Create a hotline for police to anonymously report misconduct, and develop a third-party system for the processing and follow-up of all comments and complaints reported to the hotline
Invest in training and rewarding good police by improving training at the academy and throughout an officer’s career and fixing the career ladder
The Police Accountability Task Force report will be provided to Mayor Emanuel and members of the Chicago City Council.
The Task Force members encourage all Chicago residents to read the report, as it contains observations and findings about a range of issues. The recommendations, if adopted, will fundamentally change the way in which the public engages with the police, provide more effective oversight and auditing, and create a transparent system of accountability and responsibility for all stakeholders. It can be viewed on the Police Accountability Task Force website, www.ChicagoPATF.org
“Reform is possible if there is a will and a commitment,” said Lori E. Lightfoot at Wednesday’s press conference. “But where it must begin is with an acknowledgement of the sad history and present conditions that have left the people totally alienated from the police. The Chicago Police Department cannot begin to build trust, repair what is broken and tattered unless – from the top leadership on down – it faces these hard truths, acknowledges what it has done at the individual and institutional levels, and earnestly reaches out in respect. Only then can it expect to engage the community in a true partnership,” Lightfoot concluded.