One year ago Thursday, the earth moved for the Chicago Police Department.
The Task Force on Police Accountability appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel on the day he fired Police Supt. Garry McCarthy issued a blistering, 190-page indictment of the Police Department that would lay the groundwork for a similar report by the U.S. Department of Justice.
It characterized the Independent Police Review Authority as so “badly broken” it needed to be abolished, and it condemned a police contract it claimed turns a “code of silence into official policy.”
On the same day, the City Council dispensed with the charade of a second nationwide search by the Police Board and unanimously confirmed Eddie Johnson as McCarthy’s permanent replacement, even though Johnson never applied for the the job.
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Sun-Times archive on the Chicago Police Department
The Laquan McDonald investigation
This week, the Chicago Sun-Times sat down with Police Board President and task force co-chair Lori Lightfoot to talk about police reforms not yet implemented one year later.
The questions are particularly timely, now that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to review and retreat from police reform agreements nationwide makes it clear that there will be no court oversight, and that Emanuel will be on his own to implement police reform.
INTERNAL ACCOUNTABILITY SYSTEM
The University of Chicago Crime Lab has made some progress toward creating a $3 million “electronic early intervention system” to pinpoint problem officers. The mayor’s office is also attempting to round up private funding for it. But the new system is “a year away from even being piloted,” Lightfoot said.
Meanwhile, the never-ending parade of police abuse settlements continues — to the tune of $30 million last year alone.
The dashboard created to “push out information to police supervisors” about officers who rack up complaints “didn’t work for most of last year” and supervisors weren’t trained to use it or held accountable for ignoring it, she said. And a pair of decades-old programs tailor-made to get help to problem officers — behavioral intervention and personnel concerns — are widely ignored.
“They need to get the EIS system up and running. But in the interim, somebody needs to take a leadership role in identifying problem officers and doing manual intervention to get officers back on the right track,” Lightfoot said.
The program former Mayor Richard M. Daley created 25 years ago has been “allowed to whither on the vine” and is “pretty much dead,” Lightfoot said. She’s not impressed with Johnson’s plan to create an advisory committee and hold a series of neighborhood hearings on ways to rebuild the moribund program.
“You have to have a plan for how you engage people at the district level. And that plan has to be fully resourced. The old CAPS program actually had paid community organizers who helped bring people into the community policing system,” she said.
“It can’t just be a stand-alone division within the department, because then it gets marginalized. It’s got to be something that’s integrated into every single district. You have to incentivize officers to be there. And when Compstat gets up and running again, one of the measures should be community policing.”
CHIEF DIVERSITY OFFICER
There’s a reason why every major corporation in America has a chief diversity officer. Every organization needs someone whose sole responsibility is to focus on race, gender and diversity and make certain that sensitivity permeates hiring, promotions, training and interactions with the general public, Lightfoot said.
“If you don’t have a person who owns that function and you rely upon diversity happening by people who have other main occupations, it doesn’t happen. Whatever progress you made, you either plateau or fall back,” she said.
“Someone — a person — has to take ownership in driving that reform on a full-time basis. If you have people doing it as a side job, part-time, no one owns it. No one is the principle driver of change.”
Lightfoot says one of the “most discouraging parts” of the Justice Department’s report was its harsh assessment of the training that went on last year. It was criticized as rushed and inadequate.
She’s encouraged by Johnson’s decision to create a training oversight committee headed by First Deputy Supt. Kevin Navarro and “embed” training officers in every district.
But Lightfoot argued that incentives are needed to encourage officers to take on those additional responsibilities and attract enough field training officers to handle a two-year police hiring surge.
“What they’ve done on training so far has been reactive and not proactive. Not forward-thinking. Not a strategic plan,” she said.
“When Quintonio LeGrier and Betty Jones were killed, the reaction was, `Let’s train everybody on Crisis Intervention.’ There was another shooting. OK, let’s train everybody on Tasers.”
SUPERVISION AND PROMOTIONS
Lightfoot said there’s been no effort to “re-think job descriptions” for supervisors, particularly sergeants who “touch more officers” than anyone else.
“It may require a recalibration of what the tests are for supervisors. That work has not been done and that is an absolute critical necessity. Supervisors are critically important to the culture of the department. And if you don’t have the right people in those roles, you cannot drive change,” she said.
BUREAU OF INTERNAL AFFAIRS
Lightfoot refers to this bureau as a “black box” because there is “no transparency” to the work they do. The spotlight over the last year has been justifiably focused on IPRA. But Internal Affairs needs “the same level of scrutiny,” she said.
“They should have to put out at least quarterly reports on the kinds of cases they’re handling, how long they’re taking and what the results are. We need to know, what’s their sustained rate? What’s their not sustained rate?” she said.
“Are they taking citizen complaints seriously? Or are they not taking them seriously? Right now, there are more questions than answers because [Internal Affairs] is not transparent.”
The City Council’s Black Caucus is threatening to hold up ratification of any police contract that continues to make it “easy for officers to lie” by giving them 24 hours before providing a statement after a shooting and includes “impediments to accountability” that prohibit anonymous complaints, allow officers to change statements after reviewing video and requires sworn affidavits.
Lightfoot acknowledged that Emanuel can’t “negotiate” the contract in public. But she is demanding that the mayor
“articulate the values” that will be driving those negotiations.
“So far, the mayor has been silent. Silence is a problem and breeds mistrust,” she said.