You’ve got to give it to them.
The Chicago Police Department is moving to address the complaints about the city’s policing.
On Friday, Supt. Eddie Johnson unveiled a new use-of-force policy that instructs officers to “only resort to physical force when no reasonably effective alternative appears to exist.”
The new rules would prohibit officers from drawing and displaying their firearms unless there is “a reasonable belief” that such action is necessary for the safety of officers or others.
Not surprisingly, these new standards are getting pushback from police officers concerned the restrictions could cause officers to second-guess themselves.
Meanwhile, some of the department’s fiercest critics reacted negatively to the city’s approval of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, or COPA, that would replace the dysfunctional Independent Police Review Authority.
They say COPA would be the same old same old, while their proposal for a Civilian Police Accountability Council would make the oversight agency truly independent.
Obviously, adopting new policies targeting the rank-and-file while people are treating police like enemies of the community is a tough row to hoe.
It’s no coincidence that the day before Johnson released the new rules on use of force he shared the story of a female police officer who took a brutal beating rather than draw her weapon against a suspect.
Johnson was speaking at the Chicago Fire Department awards program when he told the audience the suspect “repeatedly smashed her face into the pavement until she was rendered unconscious.
“She knew that she should shoot this guy, but she chose not to because she didn’t want her family or the department to have to go through the scrutiny the next day on national news,” Johnson said.
As implausible as that might sound to some, it is indeed possible if more of us could stop thinking the worst about one another.
For instance, I recently received a lengthy email from a man who lives in Park Manor on the South Side. Steven Small said he’s troubled by a lot of the behavior that goes on: “gangs, murder, violence, no economic development, no jobs and zombie-like African-American men wreaking havoc.”
But he is also fed up with the police. After the Laquan McDonald police shooting, Small said he was “close to a tipping point of [frustration], rage, disgust and disrespect for the police.”
One day, while cutting his grass and picking up the trash, he got upset over a car that was blocking street-sweepers:
“The one car was left parked directly in front of my place… I was furious. A police unit slowly came down the block…When it approached me, the officer smiled and waved at me and kept going. I thought that was very strange and said… to myself: ‘He was too lazy to write a ticket’…Shortly after that, a police unit came from the opposite direction … He smiled and waved too as he drove by slowly never stopping to ticket the vehicle.
“Then, it hit me. The two officers must have thought the car belonged to me….They all saw me cleaning. They knew I lived there. They thought they were giving me a break and/or supporting me. Is it possible there is a simple answer to the complexity of community and police relations? Is it possible that my mom, dad and grandparents and the Bible [are] right and will forever be right that we should treat others as we would like to be treated.”
Over time, the major policy changes made within the Chicago Police Department will lead to structural reform.
Johnson is setting a positive tone for that reform by calling for a 45-day public comment period on the use-of-force policy.
But it is the daily encounters between police and residents that will determine whether Chicago can change this adversarial relationship.Tweets by @MaryMitchellCST