As the Chicago Police Department struggles to reform the way it trains, supervises and disciplines officers, aldermen are losing patience with the slow pace of reforms ordered in the wake of a federal investigation that found CPD officers routinely violated the constitutional rights of Black and Latino Chicagoans.
“We agreed to this. The city agreed to this,” said Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson (11th Ward). “So now we have an obligation to meet that. We can’t keep talking about how burdensome it is. We just have to do it.”
The City Council is poised to approve a measure next month that would require the department’s top brass to report to its Public Safety Committee twice a year on the pace of reforms in an effort to turn up the heat on the department after a report from independent monitor Maggie Hickey found CPD missed 70% of the deadlines for reforms between September 2019 and February 2020.
“This is not going to be easy,” said Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th Ward), a former police sergeant who is the chair of the Public Safety Committee. “But we can do better.”
Ald. Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez (33rd Ward) said missing 70% of deadlines would earn the department “an F on any scale.”
CPD spent $25.8 million in 2019 to comply with the consent decree and set aside another $25.5 million in 2020 to fund reform efforts, records show.
Deputy Superintendent Barbara West, who leads the CPD’s reform efforts, assured aldermen the department is working diligently to resolve the issues detailed by a 2017 report from the Department of Justice ordered in the wake of the murder of 16-year-old Laquan McDonald in October 2014 by former Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke.
“We have fallen behind,” West told aldermen. “But we have made significant progress in some areas.”
The day before West faced pointed questions from aldermen, the department released a new plan to “prioritize consent decree projects” that will have the greatest impact on Chicagoans and their neighborhoods. The plan calls for the department to complete more than 100 tasks by the end of the year.
In addition, the department unveiled a new online dashboard that West said was designed to allow Chicagoans to track the department’s progress toward complying with the consent decree.
Among the issues that the department has fallen behind on are the rules governing foot chases by officers. Widespread looting swept the city Sunday after officers shot a 20-year-old man in Englewood after a brief chase. Officers said the man shot at officers before they opened fire.
Ald. Matt Martin (47th Ward) originally called for CPD officials to report to the Public Safety Committee four times a year, but said he scaled back the number of reports after consulting with police officials and the mayor’s office.
“I’m a little disappointed that we are off to somewhat of a slow start,” Martin said.
Martin is a member of the City Council’s Progressive Caucus, which called Wednesday for the police department to act “quickly and aggressively” to comply with the consent decree.
Hickey, who reports twice a year to U.S. District Court Judge Robert Dow on the department’s progress, is set to hold two public sessions from 1 to 5 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday to allow members of the public to participate in her investigation of the conduct of Chicago police officers during the protests and violence that began May 30 and continued for several days in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.