Crusader Staff Report
A federal judge on Thursday, January 31, approved an historic Consent Decree that would bring about sweeping reforms to the Chicago Police Department.
The agreement requires federal court oversight and includes directives for officers, such as not using deadly force against “fleeing subjects who do not pose an imminent threat of death or great bodily harm to an officer or another person,” as well as protocols to re-evaluate police training needs, recruitment and hiring practices.
The 236 documented plan comes two years after a U.S. Justice Department found a troubling pattern of widespread civil rights violations that were committed against Black and Hispanic residents in Chicago.
U.S. District Judge Robert M. Dow, Jr., who approved the plan, called it “an important first step toward needed reforms of the Chicago Police Department and its policies.”
The agreement aims to improve and boost community policing, training, mental health support and counseling, and crisis intervention for police officers. Other provisions in the report include, for the first time, “comprehensive guidance on police interactions with persons with disabilities and transgender individuals.” The agreement tries to ensure that policing in the city is done “fairly, transparently, and without bias,” Dow wrote.
The decree will go into effect when Dow appoints an independent monitor to oversee it. Dow said he expects the selection process to be complete by March 1.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson in a joint statement called it a “historic day” for the city.
“This agreement builds on the strength of the reforms underway at the Chicago Police Department today, ensures there are no U-turns on that road to reform, and will help secure a safer and stronger future for our city,” Emanuel and Johnson said. Emanuel and Johnson were reluctant to enter into a Consent Decree after Emanuel promised one to outgoing U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch after she announced the U.S. Justice Department’s findings in January, 2017. In 2018, then Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan sued the city to force Emanuel to enter into a consent decree that allowed input from Black Lives Matters activists. Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul said in a statement, “Today is a new beginning for the Chicago Police Department. There is a significant amount of work to be done to reform, and I am committed to this important work to make Chicago safer for both residents and police officers.”
Members of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police sued to have input on the agreement, but their motion was denied in federal court.
Distrust remains deep between police and Chicago’s large Black population.
The department has spent more than $700 million since 2010 on settlements and legal fees related to lawsuits alleging police brutality and misconduct.
“Today’s historic action brought together community organizations, the City of Chicago, and the Illinois Attorney General to ensure that police accountability can be realized and maintained,” said Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx. Acknowledging past abuses and putting a court-mandated plan in place with federal oversight is a necessary step in restoring trust between law enforcement and community. Our path to healing must also include transparency. Generations of fear and distrust don’t go away because there is a consent decree, repairing that fractured relationship goes beyond today’s action. This is not the end of the road, but a mere checkpoint on the journey to reform.”