After more than 25 years on the force and 10 months as Chicago’s number three cop, Deputy Superintendent Barbara West is retiring from the Chicago Police Department.
Since January, West has overseen CPD’s Office of Constitutional Policing and Reforms, which is responsible for implementing court-ordered reforms imposed by the January 2019 consent decree.
“Having been involved in the consent decree since we began to negotiate it after the Department of Justice came out with their report … I’ve been there from the very beginning,” West said. “So at this point in time the negotiations have been dealt with, we’ve gotten through two reports, as well as we’ve been able to rebuild the team. … it was just the perfect time [to retire].”
In June, a report by the independent monitor tasked with overseeing the court-ordered reforms found the department had missed more than two-thirds of the required consent decree deadlines.
West said compliance with a consent decree, especially one as lengthy as Chicago’s, isn’t an overnight process, and that she’s helped implement a system and structure for lasting reform.
“So that actually takes time, I think it takes more than a year,” she said. “Building those systems, a system that is sustainable is important, I think it’s more important than getting it done quickly … and that’s what we’ve tried to do in terms of making sure we’ve engaged the community more, in terms of our policy development.”
Also in June, West announced the formation of a community working group to review CPD’s use-of-force policies.
“I want to promise you that the time we spend on this working group on CPD’s use-of-force policy will not be wasted. We know the value of these conversations, and we know appropriate use of force is just a policy,” she said at a press conference with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
But shortly after WTTW News’ interview with West earlier this week, WBEZ reported that the police department plans to accept only five of the 155 changes recommended by that group. Several members of the group called it a “sham.”
In a statement, the department said many of the recommendations had already been addressed or adopted. “Of those that were rejected, 50 recommendations would have directly contradicted the City’s Consent Decree or State law, and therefore, could not be legally adopted,” according to the statement.
West will retire as the highest-ranking Black female officer in the department’s history.
She says she encourages other women in CPD’s ranks, especially Black women, to “always be a fighter for the things you find to be right, true and good. And have integrity in everything you do.”