Latest DOJ police forum displays local frustrations


Wesley Herold

As a part of its ongoing investigation of the Chicago Police Department, the Department of Justice held the fifth community forum Oct. 24.

By Metro Reporter

Ten months into the Department of Justice’s civil investigation of the Chicago Police Department, the fifth public forum was held to air complaints of police brutality or misconduct.

The forum, held Oct. 24 at Malcolm X College, 1900 W. Jackson Blvd., was part of the DOJ’s investigation, which is looking for patterns and practices within the Chicago police that are unconstitutional and how to change them.

If the DOJ finds evidence of misconduct, it will issue a consent decree, a method of reform it has used in other cities like Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, Maryland, which provides an alternative to litigation. The decree states corrective conditions and orders with which the department must comply.

Pamela Hunt, an entrepreneur from West Humboldt Park, attended previous forums and said she thinks with what they have heard, the DOJ will determine Chicago needs a consent decree. 

“[The DOJ] was fair [at the other forums],” Hunt said. “A lot of people were very concerned that this process does not matter—that it’s just a formality and that it’s business as usual after [the DOJ] leaves. I certainly hope that is not the case, because it’s at a breaking point.”

Other attendees echoed this concern. Donald Brown, a retired CPD officer from the South Side, came to the forum to tell the DOJ about never receiving his pension. 

“[The forums might be] a formality,” Brown said. “I’d like to see something happen, but I wouldn’t put any money on it.”

Mark Clements, one of the residents who spoke at the forum and attended all of the others, said he had already described his experience being tortured by CPD and framed for a crime in 1981. This time, he told the story of another young man who was recently charged with murdering a Chicago police officer. 

“This is what happens to African-American people: We suffer,” Clements said. “Racism has not died; it has just changed. [Disgraced former CPD detective and commander] Jon Burge is collecting $50,000 a year as a pension—more than probably everyone in this room—and that is an insult. That sends the wrong message that it is okay to torture human beings and to be rewarded to do so.”  

According to a  2014 Associated Press story, Burge’s pension was $3,000 a month in 2011.

Clements was not the only one to mention Burge, who was arrested for crimes against civilians. Burge led a group of detectives in Chicago in the 1970s and ‘80s that allegedly abused mostly black suspects with suffocation, beatings and cattle prod shocking.

DOJ officials said it did not know how much longer its investigation of the police department would take. Its investigation of Ferguson, Missouri, took six months, and the investigation in Cleveland took 15 months. However, the DOJ said Chicago’s investigation could take more than 18 months.

Anne Kirkpatrick, CPD’s chief of the Bureau of Organizational Development, said the forums are helping the department change, regardless of the outcome. 

“[CPD] wants to move forward with changes, whether there is a finding by the Department of Justice or not,” Kirkpatrick said.