In the last nine months, two reports have been issued detailing far-reaching problems within the Chicago Police Department (CPD) and the police oversight system. In April, the Police Accountability Task Force, in which BPI played an active role, released its unsparingly critical report. In January, following a year-long investigation, the United States Department of Justice issued its own report concluding that Chicago police officers systematically violate the Constitution by using unnecessary and unreasonable force, particularly against African-American men. Together, the two reports provide a roadmap for reforming a badly broken system.
The DOJ report describes in detail failures in training and supervision with regard to use of force, and how CPD too often fails to properly investigate and punish police officers who cause harm. The report emphasizes that these failures make both civilians and police officers less safe, and concludes that some of the City’s initial reform efforts have fallen far short.
In almost every city where DOJ has found problems, the police department and DOJ have entered into a consent decree — a legal agreement to make specific changes. Overseen by federal judges and court-appointed monitors, consent decrees have been an essential tool in reform efforts. The DOJ report warns that reform in Chicago is unlikely to happen without an independent monitor and a court order.
But while DOJ and the City agreed to engage in good faith negotiations to develop a consent decree, the new U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been a vigorous and vocal opponent of federal participation in such reform efforts. BPI is now working to identify ways to accelerate reform absent a consent decree, should DOJ and the City fail to reach agreement.
One of BPI’s principal areas of focus involves working with a group of 11 community organizations—the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability (GAPA)—to implement a city-wide community-driven engagement process that leads to the formation of an effective civilian police oversight board, improvement of community-police relations, and adoption of other urgently needed police reforms.
Here are some of the key findings from the DOJ report:
Use of Force
Training and Supervision
Officer Wellness and Safety
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