The Department of Justice is poised to announce Friday its findings of constitutional violations by the Chicago Police Department after a yearlong investigation, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.
Sources have told the Sun-Times it is highly unlikely the Justice Department’s investigation will conclude with a signed-and-completed consent decree outlining mandated changes in police practices.
Rather, what is on the table is a deal for the city and the feds to sign an “agreement in principle.” Such a pact, made with community input, would create a federal court-enforceable path forward that addresses the feds’ findings.
Word of the Justice Department announcement came as former Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said he is “disappointed” that federal investigators who have been probing the police department’s practices didn’t consult with him.
“I was never interviewed, so I can only speculate what is in that report based on what I’ve seen in other cities,” McCarthy told a reporter in a text message.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch is expected to participate in Friday’s announcement, just as she did when the DOJ’s civil-rights division announced the inquiry in December 2015. That announcement came in the wake of the release of the Laquan McDonald video and just days after Mayor Rahm Emanuel fired McCarthy, who spent more than four years as Chicago’s top cop.
The feds are hustling to complete their probe of the police department before President Barack Obama turns the keys to the White House over to President-elect Donald Trump on Jan. 20.
Fraternal Order of Police President Dean Angelo said he would be surprised and extremely disappointed if Emanuel has decided to sign an agreement in principle with the Justice Department to negotiate anything before a “findings letter” summarizing the federal investigation is released.
“No one should agree to anything,” Angelo said of talks between the city and the feds. “At this stage, it’s a report on their findings and their study. It’s not a mandate. It’s nothing that anyone should be jumping to agree to unless they already have it. And if they already have it, how do they have it when no one else has it? Where is the transparency and professionalism related to that? I don’t get it at all.”
Emanuel aides refused to discuss the timing of the federal report, let alone what’s in it.
Although City Hall has been working closely with the Justice Department for months, mayoral advisers were sworn to secrecy. The last thing Emanuel wants to do is upstage and infuriate a DOJ team made up of career professionals who will remain on the job in the Trump administration, even as political appointees are replaced.
Still, Angelo pointed to the presidential transition as another reason City Hall should pump the brakes. Trump’s White House is expected to be friendlier to rank-and-file police departments. And Trump’s pick for attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has been critical of consent decrees, speaking skeptically about them at his confirmation hearing this week.
“One administration is moving out,” Angelo said. “Another administration is moving in. They have two different views on policing in urban America. To jump to any sort of an agreement or mandate at this early stage before anyone has eyes on it isn’t what we would expect from the city or the department. But we don’t always get what we expect.”
Friday’s announcement will follow Lynch’s planned Thursday morning appearance in Baltimore to announce a consent decree with that city. The feds reached an agreement in principle five months ago with Baltimore to work toward a consent decree, finding that Baltimore police engaged in a pattern of civil rights violations.