CPD should work from the top down to strengthen relationships

By Editorial Board

A tased 65-year-old naked woman, young men being deliberately dropped off in rival gang territory and teenagers facing the barrel of a gun while riding their bikes are only a few of the examples listed in a damning 164-page report the Department of Justice released Jan. 13, which accused the Chicago Police Department of systematically violating Chicagoans’ civil rights.

CPD Superintendent Eddie Johnson and Mayor Rahm Emanuel stood on the same dais with U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch as she released the investigation’s findings to the public, as reported Jan. 13 by The Chronicle. The report concluded that CPD officers are poorly trained and quick to use excessive, sometimes deadly, force primarily against minority groups, specifically African-Americans and Latinos. This unnecessary force is reported to go without any consequences.

The DOJ investigation began a year ago after dash-cam footage of the slaying of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was released on Nov. 15, 2015. McDonald was shot 16 times by CPD officer Jason Van Dyke, according to the video. The video sparked outrage, and protesters called for measures including Emanuel’s resignation.

Shortly after the video’s release, Emanuel asked for former Superintendent Garry McCarthy’s resignation. Even McCarthy’s dismissal did not stop the calls for Emanuel to step down as well.

Although some see a recall election as the solution—which would be a waste of time, resources and taxpayer money—it would not address the legacy of brutality deeply rooted in Chicago culture and the police force. The most shameful example is that of  the Area 2 torture cases, occurring from 1972 to 1981 on Police Commander Jon Burge’s watch, where police used electric shocks to the genitals to force confessions out of 110 African-American men.

Despite the history that predates him, Emanuel bears his own responsibility for reckless and racist policing and the cover-up of McDonald’s death. His cooperation with the investigation and apology are not the same as accountability and do not make up for the grief victims’ families are suffering.

One of the most damaging findings in the report is that police are being trained in outdated methods, including “use-of-force” training videos more than 35 years old. Training must be current and accurate for progress to take place.

The city should take corrective action, which will be specified in a consent decree to still be negotiated. Because of philosophical differences with the Obama Administration, the Trump Administration Justice Department may not want to enforce the consent decree—an agreement or settlement that resolves a dispute between two parties without admission of guilt or liability—but the city should follow it regardless. 

This is an important opportunity for Chicago to rebuild itself, but it must start from the top. Chicagoans need to be led by the example of officials, which means transparency is key. Officials need to address the problems the city is facing head-on so progress on both sides can take place.

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