Mayor Rahm Emanuel's Police Accountability Task Force has issued a sobering assessment of the Chicago Police Department.
It's a startling 183-page document that calls out the CPD for a pattern of racist practices and lack of accountability. The report, released Wednesday, demands sweeping changes to training and discipline.
It also recommends that the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) be abolished. That's the controversial police oversight agency appointed by the mayor, which has only twice in nine years determined that police shootings violated the police department's use of force policy.
On Thursday, “Chicago Tonight” hosted a live studio discussion about the task force's findings and recommendations.
Guests included Lori Lightfoot, the chair of the Police Accountability Task Force who also chaired the Early Intervention and Personnel Concerns Working Group; and Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson, who is a member of the task force and its technical advisor.
Below, behind-the-scenes photos from the forum:
In the live studio audience were a variety of organizations and individuals who have been impacted by Chicago Police, including some task force members and those who worked on the process:
Sybil Madison-Boyd, task force member and a leader on the Community & Police Relations Working Group
Victor Dickson, also one of the eight members of the task force and a leader of the Community & Police Relations Working Group
Richard Wooten, a former Chicago Police officer who served on the Community & Police Relations Working Group
Maurice Classen, a task force member and chair of the Police Oversight Working Group
Alexa James, a member of the task force and chair of the De-Escalation Working Group
Randolph Stone, task force member and one of the leaders of the Community and Police Relations Working Group
Sergio Acosta, task force member and chair of the Video Release Working Group
The Chicago Police Department was also invited to participate. They said they felt they didn't have enough time to read the report in order to appear.
Highlights from the live show
During the forum, Lightfoot and Ferguson answered questions from the audience about the four major topics addressed in the report: racism, accountability, systemic problems and empowerment. Task force members also took some of the questions.
Brianna Johnson, an 11th grader at Lincoln Park High School, asked two questions about what young African-Americans can do when encountering police officers.
“What type of [advice] can you give teens if they come in contact with an officer with an officer that is verbally abusive?” Johnson asked. “What methods are you going to use in the future to change the racial imbalance [when police encounter] African-American teens?”
Lightfoot responded, saying teens who encounter police in their schools often had a more positive relationship with law enforcement – a vast difference from those who interacted with police outside of school.
“What that told us is that it’s all about relationships. It’s all about establishing good will,” Lightfoot said.
Other audience members, including attorneys and local activists, asked questions addressing the following topics:
• How does collective bargaining impact the police code of silence?
• How does gender factor into police violence?
• How can we improve the 9-11 dispatch protocol for handling mental illness crises?
• How does neighborhood infrastructure impact police mentality?
• What would it look like in practice to have a diversity and inclusion officer?
• Which of the task force’s recommendations are most necessary to improve police practice?
But the conversation started by addressing criticism of the report made Thursday by Dean Angelo, the head of the Fraternal Order of Police, who called the accusation of racism in the CPD “biased.” Angelo also said the authors of the report were biased going into the process.
Lightfood said Angelo should read the report and look at the specific findings.
“What he's going to find is that overall, if our recommendations are implemented, that we have a lot of tools that will empower the police,” said Lightfoot. “We talk about training, career development, cultural literacy, so that when they go out into these neighborhoods that may be different from their experience growing up, or may be different than what they've been used to in the police department, that they have the tools that they need–not just a gun and a badge–but they have a whole array of tools that will help them interact with the community and understand the challenges that people in the streets are facing.”
“Professionalism and understanding” are the most important steps in addressing racism in the police department, Ferguson said. “Fundamentally, there needs to be an understanding on the side of the police that certain practices, certain modes of communication foster this impression of racism. And on the other side, with the community, an understanding of what the officers are endeavoring to do, and figuring out how to start a dialogue to work collaboratively.”
Lightfoot also clarified the way the word racism is used in the report.
“We did not say, and we didn’t specifically find, that the department is racist,” she said. “We did not find that every single officer is racist, and we certainly didn’t find that every single officer is a bad cop. What we did is we reflected what we were hearing from people in the community about what they felt and what they believe were the motivations of the police.”
She points to data from the police department included in the report that shows interactions between civilians and police–such as stops, searches, shootings and Taser discharges–that “disproportionately seem to be affecting African-Americans.”
“Clearly, there are a lot of police officers out there struggling every day to do the right thing,” Lightfoot said.
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April 13: The Police Accountability Task Force released its report Wednesday on the Chicago Police Department, saying the CPD is broken and has a “history of racial disparity and discrimination.” Will the City Council move to abolish IPRA? We get mayoral and aldermanic reaction to the task force report.
Jan. 4: Independent Police Review Authority acting chief administrator Sharon Fairley announces changes to the agency’s leadership and reforms to the agency.
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