Activists Release Suggestions for Reforming Chicago Police Department – Next City

Activists Release Suggestions for Reforming Chicago Police Department

(Photo by Daniel Schwen)

Chicago police officers may soon be encouraged to avoid arresting people over minor offenses. That and other reforms are part of a proposal compiled by activist groups involved in ongoing litigation with the city, the Chicago Tribune reports.

The groups include the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois and Black Lives Matter Chicago, who are trying to influence a consent decree before it’s submitted to a federal judge. According to the Tribune, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan are currently wrestling over the details of a court order that could eventually serve as a judicially enforceable mandate.

As Next City has covered, the troubled Chicago Police Department’s excessive use of force and lack of accountability (especially toward communities of color) was spotlighted in a DOJ report from January of 2017. The federal department originally stepped in to investigate after the brutal shooting of black teenager Laquan McDonald. In the ensuing document, the DOJ called for a judicially enforced agreement to hold the department to a number of reforms.

Emanuel originally agreed to let a judge enforce changes. But when the Trump Administration took over in late January, the mayor changed his mind and began calling for “monitors” to oversee local reforms, rather than a judge. After Madigan sued the city to force a consent decree last August, however, Emanuel agreed to negotiate and gave the activist groups a role in drafting and enforcing new policies.

Beyond avoiding arrests over minor offenses, the groups’ proposals encourage police to give warnings or divert offenders to “mediation or public health program(s),” rather than issuing citations or locking them up, according to the Tribune.

From the paper:

For a number of offenses, a supervisor would need to approve the arrest “unless not practicable under the circumstances.” Those crimes, described as “quality of life offenses” by the groups, range from gambling to prostitution to obstructing, resisting or assaulting a police officer.

The activist groups also want the department to be forced to enact a policy on foot pursuits, which have often led to shootings and other uses of force. The consent decree proposed by Emanuel and Madigan leaves room for the creation of a policy but does not mandate it.

The Chicago Fraternal Order of Police has said the consent decree is part of a “war on the police” and sought to intervene in the case, but its attempts haven’t yet been successful, according to the Tribune.

Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian.

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