Despite the stated resolve by Mayor Emanuel to enact police reform-most notably through his introduction of a multi-tiered “anti-crime blueprint” last year-the pattern of progress towards police reform has been underwhelming. The Mayor’s numerous public assertions outlining how the City of Chicago and the Chicago Police Department (CPD) will continue to fight crime, work to foster a stronger relationship with Black and Latino communities and, most notably, his stated commitment to seek a consent decree from the Department of Justice, have all failed to create actionable solutions towards police reform.
This is particularly evident when measured by the degrees of public confidence in the CPD. The fabric of our city is weakened considerably as result of the City’s inaction, impunity, and a pervasive deep-seated culture of racism within the CPD as explicitly detailed in reports from the Police Accountability Task Force and the DOJ.
As Vanita Gupta, former head of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, said during the January 13, 2017 press conference announcing findings of the DOJ investigation:
“The failures we identified-that we heard about from residents and officers alike-have deeply eroded community trust, particularly in African-American and Latino communities suffering the most from gun violence on Chicago’s South and West Sides. These neighborhoods are the hardest hit by CPD’s pattern of unlawful force and breakdowns in the city’s accountability systems. These breakdowns breed distrust and undermine police legitimacy in the very communities that need fair, proactive policing the most. Addressing the deeply rooted police-community distrust is a critical part of fighting crime and reducing violence in Chicago.
The city and the Justice Department have entered into an agreement in principle, which commits both parties to negotiate a court-enforceable, independently-monitored consent decree that resolves our findings.”
Yet, at a time when City leadership must show up for justice, the Mayor has paid no heed to the DOJ’s proclamation, which has been echoed by diverse sectors of the city, from faith leaders to community advocates, to criminal justice experts including Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
Why, we must ask, is the Mayor actively fighting the federal judicial oversight?
We acknowledge, of course, that some changes have been made and they are to be commended. For example, the expansion of the CPD body cameras program, adopting a new policy on a timelier release of dash cam tapes, and the recognition that police are not above the law through prosecution of officers that exceed their authority, are all worthwhile improvements.
However, change does not always equal progress.
Progress requires the tenacious pursuit of restorative justice, steadfastness and active movement in alignment with the will of the people. Unless one changes policies and practices, unless the culture within CPD changes, the seed of justice cannot grow nor be given a chance to flourish.
The time is now for immediate and complete reform embraced by the current city’s administration as promised. The residents of Chicago-most importantly, our historically vulnerable Black and brown residents-cannot be forgotten at the expense of the Mayor’s hubris and ego. How do we compel the Mayor to take action? Pressure.
TAKE ACTION NOW
Over the course of the next two weeks, we are asking members of the community to join the League in raising voices for reform. It only takes two minutes of your time to help effect change. Together, we can be louder and stronger in our call for the City to take action:
- Independent Monitor:Due to the long history of systemic misconduct, we cannot trust the CPD to police itself. Without the Department of Justice to hold the CPD accountable for their unlawful actions, injustice will continue to prevail. An independent monitor appointed by the City and the current DOJ will lack credibility among the communities most affected by police misconduct. It is therefore imperative to demand a consent decree under the jurisdiction of a federal judge. If this level of public accountability is absent, public trust will further erode.
o 2-Minute Action: Please call the Mayor’s office to demand Mayor Emanuel keep his commitment to enter a court-enforced agreement with the federal government to reform the CPD. By Phone: Dial 311 (within Chicago), if calling from outside of Chicago, call: 312.744.5000
- Fraternal Order of Police: The League has always believed that the vast majority of police officers do a reputable job under admittedly difficult circumstances. The problem has been, however, that too many of those officers feel that it’s more important to support the bad seeds among them than stand up for what is just to ensure equitable treatment. The blue wall of silence must be shattered and the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) must finally admit that every officer is not worthy of their support. The contract with the FOP, which represents a wide majority of the department’s approximately 12,000 officers, expired in June. While private negotiations are currently underway, we need to collectively work to ensure the contract with the FOP is renewed, The League stands with the Coalition for Police Contract Accountability which has called for removal of the police union contract provisions that harm accountability and restrict transparency. The Mayor must be straightforward in negotiations concerning citizens of Chicago and the City Council must approve a new contract that incorporates all of our recommendations. To apply pressure to this situation, it is imperative to take action:
o 2-Minute Action: Please call your Alderman and demand that they are diligent in negotiating a contract that is community serving, police supportive, and balances security and civil liberties of all Chicagoans. Follow the link to find your ward Alderman: http://bit.ly/2fynpVk
- Chicago Police Board:The President of the Chicago Police Board was appointed by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in June of 2015 and approved by the Chicago City Council . If the Mayor appoints a new Police Board chair who is not steeped in the knowledge of the system, the Board will become ineffectual, and this will diminish their role. We must ensure that those appointed to service the Chicago community are equipped with the correct training and understanding of the city in which they’re intended to protect. The fact that three former Police Board members Susan L. McKeever, Melissa M. Ballate and William Conlon – have resigned from the board in the past 18 months is a testament to the cohesiveness of the Police Board.
o 2-Minute Action: Keep up to date with the monthly, quarterly, and annual reports disseminated by the Police Board. If we collectively review these reports, we will remain conscious of their decisions : http://bit.ly/2usaLT2
To ensure police reform is multi-faceted and adequately influenced by the problem of crime and violence in our city, we must all remain accountable. Policing is only one aspect of the long history we face including unemployment, a broken educational system, an unequal distribution of resources, and yes, racism. But if we acknowledge this and start to put in to place the reforms necessary to enact change with intentional and collaborative effort, we can make progress. We have the tools in place to create change-as outlined above-but we must not ignore violations to our human rights in the face of dishonorable politics. Minor fixes will doom us to the same results, which is why we must all take action to assure a better Chicago for us all.