Chicago Reporter Analysis Shows Slow Progress on Police Reform

It’s been nine months to the day since the United States Department of Justice issued its scathing report on the Chicago Police Department. The report outlined 99 recommendations to reform everything from training to accountability to use of force.

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An analysis released Wednesday by the online investigative site The Chicago Reporter says only six of the recommendations have been fully implemented so far. The analysis also shows that an additional 23 recommendations have been only partially implemented while the remaining 70 are either still in the planning stage, not yet implemented or their status is unclear.

The Chicago Reporter’s Jonah Newman says he began looking into the progress of the reforms after Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration shifted gears earlier this year and opted to undertake the DOJ’s recommendations without a federal consent decree.

“Being public and being transparent about what they’re doing is an important piece of the reform process,” said Newman. “There was increased urgency about finding a way of holding the city accountable for what actions they were or weren’t taking toward implementing those recommendations.”

Newman says in the absence of an independent monitor reporting on the city’s progress, The Chicago Reporter relied on “the city’s own public statements that the CPD has put out.” That includes two reports, one issued in March that laid out the steps the city was planning on taking and another report issued in late August with an update about what they had done so far. “For the most part we took the city at their word of the things they have or haven’t done,” said Newman, “to the extent that they could provide some concrete evidence of what they were working on and that’s why some of these are marked ‘unclear.’”

Some of the six fully implemented recommendations include an improvement of the field training program, ensuring proper staffing and resources for CPD’s Bureau of Internal Affairs and Civilian Office of Police Accountability and formalizing the creation of a CPD training committee.

Among the 28 recommendations still nowhere in sight are tracking, analyzing and publishing data to identify discriminatory patterns, improving command channel review process for discipline, and tracking, analyzing and publishing complaints of racial discrimination.

The DOJ report was issued only one week before the end of the Obama administration, and President Donald Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions has shown little interest in seeking a consent decree. It’s what led Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to sue the city last month to obtain a consent decree and a federal monitor, something Emanuel has now embraced.

Newman says it’s too early in the process to determine whether the few reforms implemented so far are beginning to transform the police force.

“Many cities that go through this have been under consent decree for years,” he said. “It’s a long-term project and I think it’s going to be a long-term process for police reform here in Chicago.”

As for whether the reforms end long-standing practices that the DOJ concluded were discriminatory and racist, Newman said: “Honestly an independent monitor who has the resources and the staff and the access to the information that the public doesn’t have or at least doesn’t have easy access to will [be the one to] really know whether this has been effective.”

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