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Monday letters: Revise police union contract for good of all

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Part of rebuilding the bridge between law enforcement and citizens is demanding that officers across the nation and in the Chicago who have wrongfully killed young black men be held accountable and go to jail. This sends a message to other officers that wrongdoing will be punished. It sends a message to the community that officers who do wrong will be held accountable.

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But it’s important, as well, to make a number of basic changes in the city’s collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the police union:

  1. The requirement that complainants filed an affidavit should be eliminated so investigators can identify additional cases of police misconduct.
  2. Anonymous complaints should be allowed to encourage reporting by those who fear retaliation, including internal whistleblowers.
  3. Officers should not be informed of the complainant’s name prior to interrogation.
  4. The provision requiring destruction of records should be eliminated. This deprives the public of important information that serves numerous operational and public policy objectives.
  5. The provision that forbids the police department from rewarding officers who act as whistleblowers should be removed.
  6. The CBA dictates the manner in which interrogators can ask questions, which presents an unnecessary burden on them and sets them up to violate the union agreement on a technicality. The policy does not appear to comport with best practices and should be eliminated.
  7. The CBA requires that officers must be informed of the nature of the allegations against them prior to interrogation. This provision is presently interpreted very specifically to mean a detailed recitation of the charges. This should be amended to allow for a more general recitation of allegations.
  8. End the practice of allowing officers to apply accumulated comp time towards recommended days of discipline.
  9. Change the policies related to the “use of force deadly force.” There is a lack of specific language regarding how to respond to non-firearm weapons, for example, and no precision as to what constitutes “reasonableness” in deciding to use deadly force. In the case of Tennessee v. Garner, the Supreme Court states that when pursuing a fleeing suspect, he or she may not use deadly force to prevent escape unless “the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the other officer or others.”

Until we make such changes in policy and hold officers accountable when they do wrong, the rebuilding of the broken bridge will be nearly impossible.

Rev. Michael L. Pfleger

Faith Community of St. Sabina