By Chinta Strausberg
On the first of a two-day Fairness hearing on whether a federal judge should accept the Chicago Police Department’s consent decree, Reverend Jesse Jackson, and supporters Tuesday said the decree is needed, given the long and abusive history of the police department toward the city’s citizens.
They made their remarks during a press conference held across the street from the Dirksen Federal Building at 219 S. Dearborn where the first of a two-day Fairness hearing is being held. On Tuesday and Thursday, witnesses testified for six-hours each day why Chicago needs this consent decree.
Joining Jackson were Reverend Saeed Richardson, executive director of the Community Renewal Society, and Karen Sheley, director of Police Practice Projects for the ACLU. Speaking on behalf of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition which he heads, Jackson said, “We support the consent decree,” and the expanded version.
“Chicago has the most killings, the most unsolved murders in the country. The climate today is very dangerous.” Referring to Trump calling himself a “nationalist,” Jackson said, “The president declares himself to be a white nationalist or race supremacist and is immediately endorsed by former Grand Dragon David Duke who contributes to a very ugly climate.”
Recently, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions told the Chicago Crime Commission that the consent decree was a “very unwise agreement” that was not only anti-democratic but it allegedly leads to a 30 percent increase in murders the year it was implemented. Sessions called for the restoration of the stop and frisk law which targeted people of color, something African Americans in particular oppose.
Jackson said, “I wish Sessions would come to Chicago and face us in the community and not just hide in Washington, throw a rock and hide his hand.”
Richardson said his organization is part of a lawsuit with Community United, the ACLU, Next Steps and ONE Northside we are “trying our best to make sure this consent decree comes to pass. No one person in Chicago should have the fear of coming into contact with law enforcement. “Most people value the protection and service from our police department but particularly our Black, brown and disabled communities across the city are disproportionately suffering under improper use of force on the policing techniques that ultimately impact us over again,” Richardson said.
Referring to the former Obama administration’s Department of Justice (DOJ), Richardson said, “They made a series of recommendations, but the present DOJ came in place and took those recommendations and threw them out of the window.”
He said the consent decree is “setting a floor, a starting point to make sure we have lasting, policing change in our city. It is necessary. It’s mandatory, and it must come to pass.”
“We are on the precipice of making history, the first consent decree … and it must pass.”
Agreeing was Sheley who said the ACLU also supports the consent decree “because the Chicago Police Department has tried self-reform for generations and has failed. Over and over again, promises have been made, but they haven’t been kept. The promise today would be enforceable in federal court. That’s appropriate….”
Asked about Sessions’ rejection of the consent decree, Sheley said she’s not surprised because “he is in the administration of a president who has encouraged strong-armed tactics for law enforcement who would oppose a consent decree that would require constitutional policing.” This decree she said, “will be much more successful than the failed reforms of the past.”