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Friday, April 15, 2016

Police accountability report could relate to other US law enforcement agencies

Good relationships take practice, courage, and commitment on all sides. (Photo by Kurk Johnson, July 4, 2008)
In a scathing indictment of the Chicago Police, members of a citizen's oversight committee have given clues into how other police departments may treat people of color in other U.S. neighborhoods.  If in Chicago, so could the rest of America benefit from this report.

In an April 13 press release, members of the Police Accountability Task Force presented its findings focused on rebuilding the fabric of trust between Chicago’s Police Department and the communities they serve.

From report: "...daily, pervasive transgressions that prevent people of all ages, races, ethnicities and gender across Chicago from having basic freedom of movement in their own neighborhoods. Stopped without justification, verbally and physically abused, and in some instances arrested, and then detained without counsel—that is what we heard about over and over again. Many of those voices came from young people who are on the frontlines of daily encounters with the police whether on the streets or in schools."

The Task Force, appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in December 2015 in the wake of the shooting death of teenager Laquan McDonald, engaged in a robust community process through five Working Groups whose members included a cross section of Chicagoans.  The Working Groups met with a broad and diverse range of experts, organizations and individuals from all across the city which included over 750 people.

The Task Force report contains comprehensive findings based on community input as well as detailed research; interviews with community, legal and civil rights organizations; current and former police officers; and young people across the city, as well as a review of best practices in other police departments. The report contains over 100 recommendations for reform.

“We heard Chicago citizens decry the lack of discipline for officers involved in wrongful shootings or other serious issues," said Task Force member Victor Dickson. "They told us that community policing had once been effective, but now exists in name only. And residents of Chicago spoke of random police stops in which they are treated with disdain, and fearful that any interaction with police could lead to violence against them. Unfortunately, our research supports those perceptions.”

Here are summary bullets from the report.
• 74% of people killed or injured by Chicago police officers were African American, over the last eight years.
• 72% of people stopped by Chicago police in 2014 were African American, and 17% were

The Task Force acknowledges that policing is an increasingly challenging and often dangerous job. Illegal guns are awash in communities that are devastated by crime, poverty and unemployment.

“Overall, we found that good police are not supported or rewarded, while too many bad police are given a pass," said Task Force Chair Lori E. Lightfoot. "Red flags about officers heading down the wrong path are not quickly and aggressively addressed, as they should be. And officers can go from the Training Academy to retirement with virtually no mandatory training in between. The Department needs to invest in its human capital and professionalize the way it manages its people.”

The recommendations of the Task Force address three critical areas: the need for community empowerment, lack of accountability, and other systemic problems. The following highlight some of the key recommendations from the report.

Create a Community Safety Oversight Board , a powerful platform and role for the community in police oversight Implement a citywide Reconciliation Process beginning with the Superintendent publicly acknowledging CPD’s history of racial disparity and discrimination Replace CAPS with localized Community Empowerment and Engagement Districts (CEED) for each of the city’s 22 police districts.

Replace the Independent Police Review Authority with an empowered, fully transparent and accountable Civilian Police Investigative Agency , which will enhance structural protections, powers and resources for investigating serious cases of police misconduct, even in the absence of sworn complaints.

Create a dedicated Inspector General for Public Safety to independently audit and monitor CPD and the police oversight system, including for patterns of racial bias.

Require that all disciplinary information be provided online so that citizens can track complaints and discipline histories.

Implement an Early Intervention System for CPD to identify officers with problems before they become problems for the community.

Dismantle the institutionalization of the police “code of silence,” including changes to the police unions’ collective bargaining agreements, ending command channel review, reforming the role of CPD supervisors and prioritizing pattern and practice analysis.

Create a “Mental Health Critical Response Unit” within CPD that is responsible for mental  health crisis response functions, including training, support, community outreach and engagement, cross-agency co-ordination and data collection.

Establish a smart 911 system for the Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC), allowing residents to pre-enter information on mental health or other issues that would be instantly available to 911 operators.

Create a mult-layer co-responder system where mental health providers work with OEMC and CPD to link individuals to treatment.

“Reform is possible if there is a will and a commitment,” continued Lightfoot. “But where it must  begin is with an acknowledgement of the sad history and present conditions that have left the people totally alienated from the police.

"The Chicago Police Department cannot begin to build trust, repair what is broken and tattered  unless from the top leadership on down – it faces these hard truths, acknowledges what it has done at the individual and institutional levels, and earnestly reaches out in respect. Only then can it expect to engage the community in a true partnership,” Lightfoot concluded.

To read the full report, go to:

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