Monitoring Team ‘Encouraged’ by Chicago Police Reform Efforts, Despite Ongoing Data Issues

(WTTW News)(WTTW News)

The Chicago Police Department has reached some level of compliance with a slight majority of its requirements thus far under its ongoing consent decree, but it must “significantly improve” its data collection, specifically regarding foot pursuits, according to an update from the team charged with monitoring progress.

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Through the end of June, the CPD has hit either preliminary, secondary or full compliance with 266 out of 519 possible paragraphs under the consent decree, Independent Monitor Maggie Hickey said in a new status report published Friday.

This marks the first time the police department has been in some level of compliance with a majority of paragraphs, through four semiannual reports.

“Despite sustained and emerging challenges, the Parties and the (Independent Monitoring Team) continue to work together to improve policies, training, and practices,” Hickey wrote in the report. “To date, we are encouraged by the reform efforts made by many hard working City personnel.”

Hickey and the Independent Monitoring Team (IMT) similarly found the police department had met 26 out of 51 deadlines in this reporting period, which provides a snapshot of the city’s reform efforts from Jan. 1 to June 30.

The court-enforced overhaul of CPD policies and reforms — prompted by the 2014 murder of Laquan McDonald by Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke and a subsequent investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice amid the fallout from that shooting — has been in place for more than two years.

The latest report is the fourth of at least 10 reports that the IMT will produce over a five-year period, though the consent decree will likely extend beyond that window.

“While there has been progress in the CPD’s  reform efforts, we know there’s more to do,” Police Superintendent David Brown and Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a joint statement Friday. “The City and CPD remain committed to fulfilling not only the requirements delineated by the consent decree but will go above and beyond what is outlined to create transformative and lasting reform within the department.”

In a phone interview with WTTW News Friday, Brown said the latest report marks the “most significant progress” the CPD has made to date under the consent decree.

“We have a lot of work to do,” he added. “No one is celebrating or throwing a parade or anything, but this is the most significant progress we’ve made.”

Despite the progress in compliance, the IMT said it was alerted to “serious data challenges” from the CPD, specifically relating to tracking foot pursuits. The department this year implemented a new interim policy to regulate foot pursuits amid public outcry following the fatal police shootings of 13-year-old Adam Toledo and 22-year-old Anthony Alvarez in separate incidents in March.

But CPD officials had hoped to have a final, permanent policy in place by September. That hasn’t happened.

According to the report, the CPD this year disabled its foot pursuit data dashboard and informed the IMT that the data feeding the dashboard was “likely inaccurate.” While the IMT said it has repeatedly asked for an explanation about what caused these issues and whether those issues have been resolved, “(to) date, we still do not have many of these answers, and have only received partial explanations regarding the scope of the data issues and plans ahead.”

Going forward, the IMT said significant improvements must be made.

“Data quality is crucial to demonstrating compliance across all 10 sections of the consent decree,” Hickey said in a statement. “The CPD will need to improve data collection, management and analysis to provide greater effectiveness, transparency and accountability for Chicago’s communities, including the CPD’s own officers.”

Asked about these issues, Brown said his department is working to fill vacant programmer and data analyst positions so his department can improve its data management. He expects a permanent foot pursuit policy to be in place by the end of this year.

One of the department’s main achievements highlighted in the latest reporting was the completion of a new eight-year contract with the Fraternal Order of Police, which represents some 11,000 CPD officers, following years of negotiations.

The IMT, however, found there are ongoing staffing issues, particularly among the department’s sergeant and lieutenant ranks, which “affect the City and the CPD’s ability to achieve the required unity of command and span of control.”

The monitoring team also noted that although the CPD has expanded its community engagement — particularly relating to its interim foot pursuit policy — those efforts continue to be a “work in progress.”

“The success of the City’s and the CPD’s reforms,” the IMT said in a press release, “will ultimately depend on whether those reforms are felt by Chicago’s communities.”

Contact Matt Masterson: @ByMattMasterson[email protected] | (773) 509-5431

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