Federal Court Monitor: Chicago Police Made ‘Incremental Progress’ in Reform Push

Video: The WTTW News Spotlight Politics team discusses the consent decree and more of the day’s top stories. (Produced by Andrea Guthmann)

The team overseeing court-ordered reforms of the Chicago Police Department credited city officials with making “incremental progress” toward resolving the issues that “have caused disproportionate delays” in the reform effort, which is now more than five years old.

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The ninth semiannual report from the team led by attorney Maggie Hickey is the first to examine the reform efforts now led by Mayor Brandon Johnson and Chicago police Supt. Larry Snelling. The wide-ranging roadmap for reform was prompted by a 2017 federal investigation that found officers routinely violated the constitutional rights of Black and Latino Chicagoans.

The latest report from Hickey and the monitoring team represents a shift in tone from the last two reports, which featured increasingly pointed warnings that the city’s sluggish progress in complying with the consent decree was unacceptable.

City officials must implement a “comprehensive, consistent and transparent community policing strategy and a transparent and data-driven staffing study to best allocate and prioritize personnel and resources,” according to the report.

Between July 1 and Dec. 31, The “city and the CPD made incremental progress toward both. While these efforts are ongoing — and will take time to affect change — many of the outcomes intended by the Consent Decree cannot be efficiently achieved without them.”

However, CPD and city officials failed to meet a City Council-imposed deadline to finalize an agreement with an outside organization to develop a staffing model that “considers data-driven resource allocation methods incorporating district-specific factors, including, but not limited to, calls for service, public violence and property crime,” as required by the consent decree.

The monitoring team said it remains concerned about the “slow adoption of community policing as a philosophy,” and by the fact that CPD failed to train officers as required on community policing principles and practices, as required by the consent decree.

The consent decree also requires CPD officials to craft new efforts to treat CPD personnel experiencing mental health, substance-use disorder and emotional challenges as part of an initiative designed to prevent officers from dying by suicide.

That initiative has yet to be completed or implemented, according to the report.

In addition, there is no evidence CPD officials have made any progress on implementing a system designed to alert police brass about which officers have been the subject of repeated police misconduct allegations, as required by the consent decree.

Despite the notably more positive tone of the report from the monitoring team, it also sounded the alarm about the upcoming Democratic National Convention, which is set to take place in Chicago from Aug. 19-22.

“We have reached an inflection point where the city’s and the CPD’s reform efforts will be seriously tested,” Hickey said in a statement. “The challenges ahead are significant, and there is much work to do.”

The city is in full compliance with approximately 7% of the consent decree, up from 6% during the previous six-month period, according to the report.

CPD is in preliminary compliance with approximately 46% of the consent decree, which means the department has finalized written policies addressing those items. CPD is in secondary compliance with approximately 35% of the court order, which means that a majority of officers have been trained on those new policies.

In an opinion column published by the Chicago Sun-Times, Snelling said “CPD has made more progress than any other American city under a consent decree at the five-year mark.” The consent decree was originally set to be completed in five years; it has been extended until 2027.

Snelling has repeatedly said focusing on raw compliance data obscures much of the real work of reform and CPD’s commitment to constitutional policing.

“These improvements should not be reduced to a single number, but rather a more robust conversation about the changes to the department’s policies and training as well as the effect of these changes on the actions taken day in and day out by the members of the department,” Snelling wrote. “When we are criticized simply for not implementing reforms quickly enough, it undermines the purpose of our reform efforts.”

The consent decree is set to expand to include traffic stops, with the approval of Snelling, after four officers fired 96 bullets in 41 seconds during a West Side traffic stop in March, killing 26-year-old Dexter Reed.

U.S. District Court Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer will hold a hearing on June 11 to hear testimony from Chicagoans about CPD’s use of traffic stops, court records show.

The hearing will take place virtually from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. June 11 via an online portal or by phone by calling 646-931-3860, access code 99967721132#. The hearing will continue in person from 1:30 to 4 p.m. in courtroom 2541 at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse, 219 S. Dearborn St. Audio of the in-person session will be available by phone by calling 877-336-1839, access code 6708061.

If Pallmeyer agrees to expand the consent decree’s scope to include traffic stops as expected, it will be the third time the 5-year-old court order has grown in response to widespread public outrage caused by the actions of Chicago police officers.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

A Safer City is supported, in part, by the Sue Ling Gin Foundation Initiative for Reducing Violence in Chicago.

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