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Chicago Community Groups Will Get Their Say On Police Reform

Mar 22, 2018
Originally published on March 23, 2018 2:05 pm

Community groups that pushed for changes in the Chicago Police Department will now be able to weigh in on reform efforts being negotiated by the city and state attorney general.

They reached the agreement this week following months of sometimes heated talks after the city waffled on how to overhaul the troubled police department.

Chicago officials agreed to make changes in the police department under the eye of a federal monitor following a scathing 2017 U.S. Department of Justice report. It criticized Chicago Police Department for unconstitutional use of deadly and excessive use of force by officers, a failure to adequately investigate officer misconduct, and racial bias.

The report was the result of a DOJ civil rights investigation launched in 2015, after a released police dashcam video showed a white police officer shooting a black teenager, Laquan McDonald, 16 times. The video prompted citywide protests and demands for sweeping reforms. The police superintendent was fired. The police officer, Jason Van Dyke, was charged with first-degree murder and is awaiting trial.

Initially, the City of Chicago agreed that the police reforms should be included in a consent decree overseen by a court monitor. But it dropped the idea when the Trump Administration offered no support for that approach.

The city reversed its position again after the Illinois Attorney General filed a lawsuit calling for federal court intervention, community oversight and implementation of the numerous reforms recommendations in the 2017 report.

The ACLU and several community groups, including Black Lives Matter, also sued. Negotiations between the Illinois Attorney General and the City of Chicago were underway for months before they reached agreement Tuesday night.

Now the ACLU and the community organizations say their lawsuits are on hold while they work with the city and state on what should be included in the consent decree.

They have 60 days to propose their recommendations for reform.

The agreement reached this week also will require the independent monitor to participate in quarterly meetings with the organizations.

"The main win is that we will have power to oversee the consent decree in the enforcement role," says Karen Sheley, the ACLU's Director of Police Practices Project in Illinois.

Sheley says that means once the reform plan is in place, the group will take the Chicago Police Department to court if the reforms are not followed.

If a proposed consent decree is not filed with the court before Sept. 1, the agreement allows the groups to move forward with their lawsuits.

Kevin Graham, president of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police, raised concerns about the proposed consent decree in a statement.

"The City of Chicago should be careful where they go with a consent decree," Graham said. "Without the support of the rank and file Chicago Police Officers, their move today will go nowhere. Anyone who thinks it will is sadly mistaken. As I have said before, we will never give up our collective bargaining rights."

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