Public Weighs in on Proposed Police Consent Decree. What’s In It?

This week, members of the public have a chance to voice their opinions on a proposed police consent decree, a legal agreement that would enforce reform policies within the Chicago Police Department.

The proposed agreement, filed in the Northern District of Illinois on Sept. 13, lays out reforms relating to police officers’ use of force and accountability, according to Cara Hendrickson, the Illinois attorney general’s public interest division chief and one of the lead attorneys behind the legal document.

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“It strengthens the structures that are in place with respect to the review and analysis of complaints about officer conduct in the department and puts in place some provisions that address concerns about the code of silence,” Hendrickson said.

After U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions indicated the Department of Justice would not enforce a consent decree on Chicago’s police department last year, a number of community groups, including Black Lives Matter, sued the city in an effort to seek federal oversight.

The civil rights class action lawsuit Campbell v. City of Chicago was followed by a lawsuits against the city by both the state and American Civil Liberties Union.

Prior to drafting the consent decree, Hendrickson said the Illinois Attorney General’s Office consulted with the community, police officers and other stakeholders.

Brendan Shiller, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys in the Campbell v. City of Chicago lawsuit, said the proposed consent decree lacks a majority of the reforms his clients want.

Shiller’s principal concern is the lack of pre-arrest diversion requirements that would send alleged violators of drug-related misdemeanors or mental health disturbances to well-being programs.

“Maybe the best thing to do instead of actually bringing them to the police station is some type of incentive-based requirement that they bring these folks to a mental health clinic,” Shiller said.

On Wednesday and Thursday, members of the public can address U.S. District Court Judge Robert M. Dow Jr., the federal judge tasked with approving or rejecting the consent decree.

The public hearings will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on both days at the John B. Parsons Ceremonial Courtroom on the 25th floor of the Dirksen Federal Building, 219 S. Dearborn St.

Those hoping to address the judge should register with the court between 7-8:30 a.m. Wednesday. A random lottery will determine speakers. More information and rules regarding the proceedings is available here as well as a consent decree fact sheet

Sessions was in Chicago last week to express his distaste with a proposed consent decree, stating: “Chicago police are not the problem, Chicago police are the solution.”

In a Chicago Tribune op-ed published Monday, former federal prosecutor Ronald Safer railed against the comments of the U.S. government’s top attorney.

“Sessions fails to understand, or worse, ignores the fact that when police misconduct goes unaddressed because of a failed disciplinary system and a code of silence, trust and cooperation with the police decrease,” Safer writes. “As a result, criminals remain on the street.”

Hendrickson, Shiller and Safer join us to discuss the proposed consent decree.

Follow Evan Garcia on Twitter: @EvanRGarcia

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