A task force commissioned in December by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, in the wake of the protracted investigation and prosecution of the Laquan McDonald shooting, released a frank and critical assessment of the Chicago Police Department ( CPD ) on April 13.
The Chicago Police Accountability Task Force was headed by Chicago Police Board Chair Lori Lightfoot, who is openly lesbian.
The report acknowledged widespread distrust of CPD from city residents, and presented numerous disturbing statistics, among them that over 74 percent of people killed or injured by CPD over the last eight years were African-American males, and that 72 percent of people stopped by CPD were African-American. Seventeen percent were Hispanic. The Task Force issued more than 100 recommendations to address the myriad problems.
In an April 14 conference call, Lightfoot said the report was the culmination of a "very long journey for us, starting in a way with the video showing the very tragic death of Laquan McDonald. … That moment revealed pain and anger that have gone back decades."
The Task Force was divided into five working groups, each focusing on a dedicated topic: community relations, legal oversight and accountability, early intervention and personnel concerns, de-escalation and video-release policies. The report can be read at http://bit.ly/1r3JWPR.
"We cannot and have not shied away from identifying systemic problems or challenges that undermine the efforts of those officers who are sincerely committed to doing their jobs the right way," the report stated. "To be sure, individual officers must own responsibility for not merely their actions each day, but also the reverberating and sometimes corrosive and lingering effect of those actions on citizens. And ultimately, the responsibility for setting the correct course lies with CPD leadership itself."
"The members of the Task Force must be commended for the candid assessment of the long-standing problems with policing in Chicago," said ACLU of Illinois Police Practices Director Karen Sheley, in a statement. "The willingness to acknowledge the racism that has been endemic in Chicago policing over many decades, to face the frequency of unconstitutional actions by Chicago police, and to recognize that CPD policies and the collective bargaining agreement with the Union has turned the code of silence into official policyeach [sic] are important steps to coming to grips with generations of problems in the way that Chicago is policed.
"But such candor is not an end, in and of itself. The strong diagnoses must be followed by actionby the mayor, the City Council and the police department. Corrective measuresthose outlined by the Task Force and othersmust be fashioned in a way that they cannot be reversed. And, the City must invest the necessary resources for training and personnelto confront implicit bias, to train with best practices for deescalating encounters rather than turning to force and to createfor the first timea vigorous and transparent police oversight system."
On April 13, the Chicago City Council approved Mayor Rahm Emanuel's appointment of Eddie Johnson to be the new CPD superintendent. Alds. Leslie Hairston and Jason Ervin both introduced measures that call for a citizen police monitor in that meeting.
"We all want Eddie Johnson to be successful," Lightfoot said in the conference call. "I think he understands that there are a number of challenges that the department must take on head-on, and I look forward to working with him in the coming weeks to help bring him up to speed and educate him on those issues that we've outlined in the Task Force report. What's most important is that we get this right, and that we don't let this moment pass without recognizing the need for change.
Lightfoot added, "We need to take advantage of the moment. There needs to be change, but we need to do it in a thoughtful way."