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Independent monitor included in CPD reform agreement sent to DOJ

Chicago Police headquarters | Getty Images file photo

Five months after a scathing Department of Justice report was issued, city of Chicago attorneys have submitted a “memorandum of agreement” to have an independent monitor to oversee reforms within the Chicago Police Department, sources told the Chicago Sun-Times.

The appointment of that monitor would occur after the DOJ approves the recently submitted memorandum, which includes a framework for adopting and implementing those reforms, sources said. The city and DOJ have been in reform negotiations with the DOJ for several months.

The monitor will be chosen from a group of people who “have expertise in policing strategies, community engagement, deploying the latest technology to make police strategies most effective and to deal with the kinds of issues raised in the DOJ report,” a City Hall source told the Chicago Sun-Times.

The yet-to-be-named monitor will also publish public reports that will detail the reform process and “where we are and whether we’re on track,” the source said. The selection process for the monitor would begin soon after the memorandum is approved.

An enforcement mechanism is included in the memorandum, which would be a legally binding agreement and would allow the DOJ to take the city to court if it was breached.

“The enforcement mechanism explicitly provisions that the DOJ has the ability to go into court, federal court, and seek enforcement of the terms of the agreement if the CPD and the city are not following through on commitments,” a City Hall source said.

The DOJ report portrayed a biased police department stuck operating in the past, from training that relies on 35-year-old videos to outdated pursuit tactics that imperil suspects, officers and innocent bystanders.

It laid bare years of civil rights violations by officers accused of verbally abusing minorities, shooting at people who pose no threat and Tasering others simply because they refused to follow verbal commands.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said he doesn’t care for consent decrees to reform police practices and that the Obama DOJ’s report on CPD practices was “pretty anecdotal and not so scientifically based,” though he acknowledged he had only read the summary of the 161-page report.

The Sun-Times reported earlier this year that 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,” according to Chicago Police Board President Lori Lightfoot.

It was not clear Friday where the funding for any new reforms, implemented upon DOJ approval of the memorandum, would come from.

Meanwhile, the never-ending parade of police abuse settlements continues — to the tune of $30 million last year alone.

In addition to the reforms submitted to the DOJ, Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson announced last month that the department will implement a new use of deadly force policy, focusing on conflict de-escalation and “the sanctity of life.”

By 2018, all sworn members of the department will be required to complete an e-learning course, along with an additional 12 hours of training, according to police officials.

Those reform efforts by the department are also self-imposed, and police leaders solicited feedback from city residents and community leaders before deciding on the changes.

Johnson said the policy shift was “a needed change.”

Martin Preib, vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police, the union representing rank-and-file officers, said Friday the union has been “kept abreast” of the discussions but declined to comment further.

Last month, FOP president Kevin Graham said the union rejected the DOJ’s findings.

“We do not believe Chicago Police Officers engage in systemic excessive force, as the Department of Justice report alleges, and we are glad that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has called into question such conclusions,” Graham said in a statement last month.