Chicago Must Take Up Police Reforms in DOJ Report to Restore Community Trust and Public Safety
After a yearlong investigation into the patterns and practices of the Chicago Police Department, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) has released its report confirming what we have known for decades: Police officers routinely violate the constitutional rights of Chicago residents and are rarely held accountable. The report confirms that the accountability system is broken and finds that:
- CPD officers engage in a pattern or practice of using force, including deadly force, that is unreasonable.
- CPD officers do not receive the quality or quantity of training necessary for their jobs.
- The City does not investigate the majority of cases it is required by law to investigate.
While the DOJ’s findings are not surprising, it is shameful that these problems persist almost 44 years after the Metcalfe Commission made similar findings about police misconduct in Chicago. Generations of City leaders have known about these problems. The only question is what our current leaders are willing to do to address them.
In recent years, the DOJ has spearheaded local police reform efforts around the country. It has investigated systemic civil rights violations in police departments in almost two dozen cities, and used federal court-supervised consent decrees to bring about desperately-needed reforms. But President-elect Donald Trump has called police misconduct a local issue. His nominee for Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, has been a vocal critic of DOJ’s approach and has a record that demonstrates open hostility to civil rights enforcement.
Now, in the likely absence of DOJ leadership on these issues, Chicago itself must take ownership of these critical reforms. We know the path forward. The combined recommendations of the DOJ and of the Police Accountability Task Force before it provide city officials and civic leaders with a detailed blueprint to restore trust and public safety in our city. It will be up to local civic leaders, elected officials, and community organizations to take up the recommendations and solutions that our city requires to ensure that the Chicago Police Department end its systemic violations through significant changes in policies, increased transparency, and a total overhaul of the systems for oversight and accountability.
The Police Accountability Collaborative, a group of civil rights organizations and policy groups, has come together to press for local ownership of this process. The Chicago Lawyers’ Committee is proud to join The Collaborative and invites other partner organizations and community groups to work together to create a vision of Chicago known throughout its neighborhoods for its fair and effective public safety system.
Please go to www.chicagopoliceaccountability.org to learn more about The Collaborative and sign up to receive news and updates.