The Crusader Newspaper Group

Can Chicago reform its police force without an order from the feds?

By G. Flint Taylor,

This week, Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, whose reputation for racially discriminatory and pro-police attitudes precedes him, declared that he was directing his Justice Department to review all of the consent decrees and agreements the Obama Justice Department had entered into with a large number of municipalities in an effort to curb the unconstitutional policing practices of those cities’ police departments. Most notable among them was Chicago. Sessions announced his review only days after meeting with the head of Chicago’s notoriously reactionary Fraternal Order of Police.

This about-face will not help Chicago.

In January, only days before President Donald Trump and his attorney general nominee goose-stepped into power, the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, together with the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago, issued a scathing 160-page report which found, after an intensive 13-month investigation, that the Chicago Police Department engages in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional use of deadly and less-lethal force; does not effectively use crisis intervention techniques to reduce the need for force; does not prevent officers from deliberately concealing misconduct; has a police discipline system that does not effectively deter misconduct; and countenances a police “code of silence.” The DOJ also found that “the CPD uses force almost 10 times more often against blacks than against whites.” Moreover, the report said, the CPD “has tolerated racially discriminatory conduct that contributes to the pattern of unreasonable force,” and takes “insufficient steps” to curb officers who articulate animus based on “race, religion, gender, and national origin.”

Chicago’s sordid history of racist police violence stands in stark support of the DOJ’s findings, from the police assassination of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton in 1969 and the decades-long Jon Burge torture scandal to the video-recorded murder of Laquan McDonald. Evidence and findings that parallel those made by the Justice Department have been repeatedly set forth in local court decisions, jury verdicts, lawsuits, expert reports, official and unofficial investigations, and by the historic award of reparations to scores of police torture survivors.


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