Illinois Black Caucus asks U.S. probe of CPD, IPRA and Alvarez office

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AT A PRESS conference, Senator Kwame Raoul (D-13th) answered a flurry of questions about the recently released police videos and a bill sponsored by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus that will make police more accountable. They also asked the U.S. Justice Department to expand their investigation to include the Cook County States Attorney’s office and the Independent Police Review Authority. (Photo by Chinta Strausberg)

Bill would license all cops

In an effort to seek justice for people abused and murdered at the hands of the Chicago police, members of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus (ILBC) asked the U.S. Attorney General to expand its investigation to include the actions of the Chicago Police Department (CPD), the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office.

On December 9, Senator Kimberly A. Lightford, chairman of the (ILBC) who is also Senate Assistant Majority Leader, was joined by Senators Donne E. Trotter (D-17th), Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-16th) and Kwame Raoul (D-13th) along with Reps. Elgie R. Sims, Jr. (D-34th) and Rep. Christian Mitchell (D-26th) at a press conference held at the James R. Thompson Center.

The Caucus supported the Police Reform and Community Relations Improvement Act (SB 1304) (http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs5.asp?ActID=3660&ChapterID=11 ) which becomes effective January 1, 2016. It requires ongoing training for all police.

Sims explained that the Act also calls for special prosecutors, an increase in training of police focused on implicit bias and cultural competency, procedural justice and use of force. “There is a prohibition on chokeholds and the law calls for police worn body cameras making Illinois the first state to have a statewide program in place.”

Raoul said they have created a funding stream for grants to police departments in order to get body cameras so that every office in Illinois to have this device. They did this so that their demand for body cameras won’t be labeled as an unfunded mandate.

They also created a commission on police professionalism, which will report on April 1, 2016 to the governor and the General Assembly. Raoul and Trotter said they want all police to be licensed. Raoul, who is also a lawyer, said if someone complains about him, the Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission (ARDC) that can remove his license.

“In Illinois we license vast majority of professions…including barbers, hairdressers and they and have their licenses revoked or suspended; however, those who walk around with deadly force are not licensed,” said Raoul. He said there are 44 states there is some form of licensing of law enforcement officers. He said by licensing police it would bypass police contracts.

Saying that the ILBC stands in unity with the community including the protests surrounding the shooting of Jaquan McDonald, 17, who was shot 16 times by Chicago policeman Jason Van Dyke. The Caucus sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch requesting an investigation of the Chicago Police Department (CPD) by the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.

Lightford said her Caucus supports Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s request to Lynch to investigate the CPD’s use of force including deadly force, the adequacy of CPD’s review and investigation of officer’s use of force, allegations of misconduct, their provision of training equipment and supervision of officers to let them to do their jobs safely and effectively and whether there is a pattern and practice of discriminatory policies.

While the Caucus is pleased that Lynch will investigate the CPD, Lightford said, “Despite internal investigations and the work of the IPRA officers within the CPD rarely face consequences criminal or disciplinary for excessive use of force.

“The citizens of Chicago have lost their confidence in their police department’s ability and desire to serve and protect every citizen,” she said. That is why the Caucus asked the U.S. Department of Justice/Civil Rights Division “extend the investigation into patterns and practices of the CPD to also determine whether there are systematic violations of the Constitution or federal law by IPRA and also the office of the Cook County States Attorney,” Lightford told reporters.

“In order to restore the trust of all Chicagoans particularly communities of color and law enforcement, it is necessary to examine and address not only the police department but the entire chain of response through which public complaints against law enforcements pass through,” she stated.

Lightford said there must have “the greatest possible confidence in each individual access to justice and we believe only an outside investigation of law enforcement oversight…can restore the faith.”

Raoul said the Caucus had led an effort of law enforcement reform long before the videotapes were released “because we knew there was a problem in Chicago notwithstanding having access to video….” He said that is why they introduced bills “trying to respond to Chicago, Cook County being the false confession capitol of the world. That doesn’t happen without abuses” he says goes beyond the CPD.

“The Cook County States Attorney office has a Felony Review Unit where the assistant states attorney come in contact with suspects. Those suspects who have historically falsely confessed to offenses that we later found out they were false confession.”

Raoul said there was one assistant states attorney in the Felony Review Unit who the Cook County states attorney said “she was livid about that one assistant states attorney lying and having been caught on tape lying about the testimony of a witness. We don’t believe that is an isolated incident.”

Senator Raoul said they believe the states attorney’s office should be investigated s well. He referred to former Cmdr. Lorenzo Davis who was a supervisor in the IPRA. He was asked to change his conclusions of a police brutality case by Scott Ando. When Davis refused, Ando fired him. Ando recently resigned.

“It’s one thing for a court of review or a supervisor to say I disagree with this conclusion and I’m going to reverse this conclusion, but it’s another thing to say I want you to change your opinion as to what you concluded as a season veteran of the CPD who rose to the level of commander…,” said Raoul. Davis said there were many incidents like this.

Raoul referred to Alvarez “pointing a finger at IPRA but on the other hand she relied on the investigation of IPRA.” He said Alvarez has investigators within her office.

Referring to the police shooting of Ronald Johnson, Senator Raoul said, “There were no conversations with police officers a year after the incident from the Cook County States Attorney’s office. That is outrageous….” He said Alvarez has the capacity to do it herself. That’s why the Caucus wants an expanded investigation of the IPRA and Alvarez’ office “to see of there are acts or omissions that have led to the violation of the U.S. Constitution and civil rights laws.”

Sims said, “We see routinely that officers are investigated but there are no violations found…. We want to make sure our citizens are safe…. This is not an attack on good officers…. We want to ensure that every citizens rights are protected and that they have a fair process and rights….”

Their request comes on the heels of a firestorm of protests and calls for the resignations of States Attorney Anita Alvarez and Mayor Rahm Emanuel both of who refuse to step aside. Feeling the heat from street protests including the coalition for Black Lives Matter, Emanuel replaced the controversial IPRA director Scott Ando, replacing him with Sharon Fairley, a former federal prosecutor and current general counsel for the city’s Office of the Inspector General.

Senator Raoul said their bill also calls for body cameras to be fully on when police are engaged with the community. “If they do something to turn it off, that can be official misconduct.”

Raoul said the police culture has exited for decades. “Tolerance within the police department, form the states attorney’s office…it’s become part of the culture.”

Collins, a former journalist, asked, “Why does it take an outside independent journalist to do the investigations…it was the Guardian who revealed Homan Square. I challenge the media to be vigilant. So many times when you go out on a scene, you put the mike in front of Pat Camden (spokesperson for the Fraternal Order of Police) face and there is a conflict of interest….”

Trotter, who had to leave early to give a lecture at a nearby college, later told the Crusader, “We have asked for checks and balances on CPD and other forces that have jurisdiction in the justice system…. If you lose your license, you cannot be a police officer….”

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