Running tab for DOJ investigation of CPD: $7.4 million and counting

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Loretta Lynch, then the U.S. attorney general, is shown in January 2017 discussing the U.S. Department of Justice investigation that found reasonable cause that the Chicago Police Department engaged in a pattern of using excessive force. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

The running tab for legal and consulting fees tied to the U.S. Justice Department’s investigation of the Chicago Police Department has now reached $7.4 million — and Mayor Rahm Emanuel is still negotiating a consent decree with retiring Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

The cost, up from $5.7 million in August, is certain to rise even higher as invoices and expenses get submitted, negotiations with Madigan drag on, and the city defends itself against a class-action lawsuit filed by lawyers for Black Lives Matter Chicago and other community groups seeking federal oversight over the CPD.

The lawsuit accused Mayor Rahm Emanuel of reneging on his January 2017 commitment to negotiate a consent decree and instead attempting to cut a “backroom deal” with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who opposes court oversight over local police departments.

The new totals were released by the city in response to a Freedom of Information request. They include $3.3 million to Taft Stettinius & Hollister through January; nearly $2.1 million through December to the Washington, D.C., law firm of Wilmer Hale, which once counted Corporation Counsel Edward Siskel as a partner; $1.7 million to The Bromwich Group through January; and $230,372 to Polis Solutions Inc. through August.

Siskel did not participate in the DOJ probe. Wilmer Hale continued its work for the city even after Siskel replaced Steve Patton as corporation counsel.

The consulting fees include a previously disclosed $4,000 paid last summer to former Washington, D.C., police chief Cathy Lanier. One month later, Lanier retired to become senior vice president of security for the National Football League.

Other consulting fees were paid to Charles Ramsey ($37,490); Bobcat Training & Consulting ($31,376); LaFox Endeavor ($47,840); 4Discovery ($7,933); Peter Newsham ($5,637); Charles A. Gruber Consulting ($4,553); former Illinois State Police Director Terrance W. Gainer ($4,250); and Paul F. Evans Jr. ($3,354).

The Justice Department’s scathing indictment of the city’s police force, triggered by the shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by a Chicago police officer, was delivered on Friday the 13th of January 2017.

It created a political nightmare that continues to haunt Emanuel.

The DOJ portrayed Chicago Police officers as poorly trained and equipped, inadequately supervised and seldom disciplined, despite a pattern of excessive force and civil rights abuses against minorities.

On the day the findings were announced, Emanuel signed an “agreement in principle” to negotiate a consent decree — culminating in the appointment of a federal monitor — to implement the sweeping police reforms the DOJ recommended.

But when U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions signaled his disdain for court mandates that tie the hands of local police departments and ordered a nationwide review of those consent decrees, Emanuel worked in secret with the DOJ to draft a “memorandum of agreement” tailor-made to avoid federal court oversight.

Police reform advocates were united in their outrage, but the mayor stood his ground for months.

It was only after Madigan filed a lawsuit against the city last August that Emanuel finally agreed to negotiate with Madigan to finalize a consent decree — a decree that would have rigid timetables and financial commitments.

Days earlier, the city had sought to dismiss a similar lawsuit on grounds that Emanuel’s “extensive, ongoing reform efforts,” including a groundbreaking training initiative, made the legal claims moot.

Two weeks later, Madigan announced she would not to seek re-election but assured Emanuel she also would not run for mayor in 2019.

Madigan’s office has been tight-lipped about the status of its negotiations with the mayor’s office.

Sources said an early draft of portions of a consent decree have been circulating in police reform circles. But it’s likely to take until sometime this summer before a final agreement is reached.

During a luncheon address to the City Club of Chicago last week, Police Board President Lori Lightfoot argued that the march toward police reform — culminating in a consent decree mandating federal court oversight — was “taking too long” and that the “shockingly large and unacceptable” parade of multi-million dollar settlements stemming from alleged police abuse “de-legitimized” the police department.

“The most expedient path is to get the consent decree done so that the department can move forward with a specific charge for reform,” Lightfoot said last week.

“I have a great deal of respect for our current state attorney general. I think it took great courage to wade into these waters. But time is wasting. There are two comprehensive reports which identified the challenges in bold relief and offered extensive prescriptions for change. Time to get it done. Give the superintendent the tools he needs to really drive comprehensive change without further delay.”

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