Police Board prez Lightfoot says reform memo ‘fundamentally flawed’

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Lori Lightfoot chaired the mayor’s police accountability task force. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

The memorandum of agreement drafted by Mayor Rahm Emanuel as a way to avoid federal court oversight of the Chicago Police Department is “fundamentally flawed and will not advance the cause of reform,” Police Board President Lori Lightfoot said Thursday.

After studying the 70-page agreement sent to the U.S. Justice Department, Lightfoot declared it long on “history and aspiration” and woefully short on specifics.

There is no specific list of reforms that must be achieved; no deadlines that must be met; no commitment of personnel and funding and no commitment to change a police contract that , Lightfoot has said, “turns the code of silence into official policy.”

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Without those specifics, an independent monitor would be “left to wonder what it is he or she should be auditing.” Nor would there be any way to determine whether the Chicago Police Department was in substantial compliance.

Lightfoot noted that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is not enthusiastic about consent decrees; in April the Department of Justice ordered a review of contemplated consent decrees with local law enforcement agencies.

“If we indulge in the fantasy that this Department of Justice with this attorney general would actually take the department into court on an uncured default, there’s no specifics on which they could enforce specific performance,” Lightfoot said.

Additionally, “there’s no specific commitment … on an annual basis to provide the department with the tens of millions of dollars it’s going to need to actually accomplish reform. … At the height of its reform efforts, the Los Angeles Police Department had approximately 200 people working on reform. The Chicago Police Department has a small handful.”

Equally troubling: the draft memorandum is silent on community oversight and declares that if the independent monitor finds substantial compliance “at any point on any topic, it can never go back and revisit that reform,” Lightfoot said.

“The bottom line is that this document is fundamentally flawed. It will not help advance the cause of reform in Chicago. And frankly, I think it sets the Police Department up for failure.”

Earlier this week, Inspector General Joe Ferguson demanded that Emanuel honor his promise to seek federal court oversight over the Chicago Police Department.

Lightfoot is not yet willing to join Ferguson and others on that bandwagon.

“If the mayor can demonstrate to people that there is a credible alternative to court supervision, I would like to see it and other people would be open to it. But it’s got to be credible and the memorandum of agreement as drafted does not provide that type of oversight,” she said.

Lightfoot urged the mayor to “engage with the Illinois attorney general to come up with an agreement … that contains specific measures, specific time frames, real accountability measures and the resources necessary to get the job done,” Lightfoot said. “It should be the result of a process that brings in all of the relevant stakeholders so that the final product has legitimacy. Negotiating and drafting documents in secret — I thought we were over that in Chicago.”

Lightfoot is among only a handful of people who have studied the 70-page document that Emanuel has, so far, refused to release.

She co-chaired the mayor’s Task Force on Police Accountability that preceded the Justice Department’s scathing indictment of CPD.

And she was among the few police reform advocates who were willing to give a memorandum of agreement a chance, particularly after the Justice Department, led by Sessions, “has made it very clear that they view consent decrees as antithetical to their relationship with local police.”

Walter Katz, Emanuel’s chief deputy for public safety, said he has the “utmost respect for Lori’s insight,” which is why he “personally engaged” Lightfoot and other reform experts in an “ongoing dialogue.”

In an email, Katz said: “Anyone who has been through drafting complex agreements knows it is not an easy process.”

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