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Former federal prosecutor picked to oversee Chicago police consent decree

Maggie Hickey | Provided

Maggie Hickey, a former Illinois executive inspector general, has been picked to oversee the city’s historic consent decree, intended to bring widespread reforms to the Chicago Police Department.

U.S. District Judge Robert Dow, who approved the decree last month, made the selection Friday. He also picked retired U.S. District Judge David Coar to assist Hickey.

As Dow wrote last month, the appointment of a monitoring team means the decree is now in effect.

“While the consent decree is only the first step toward reforming our police department and criminal justice system in Chicago, it is a critical and necessary step,” said mayoral candidate Toni Preckwinkle in a statement. “As mayor, I will ensure that we take the necessary steps to reform our criminal justice system and police department. This includes creating a Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, eliminating the code of silence, and ending the gang database.”

Preckwinkle’s opponent in the April runoff, Lori Lightfoot, didn’t return calls seeking comment Friday.

Hickey, a partner in the law firm Schiff-Hardin, said in a statement: “We are humbled by the trust the city and state have placed in our team to do this important work on behalf of the people of Chicago. We know this is a pivotal time in our city’s history and the Schiff Hardin-CNA team looks forward to working with our communities, CPD, the city and the state, Judge Coar, and Judge Dow, to make Chicago a safer city.”

In January 2017, then-U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch came to Chicago to announce the Justice Department had found widespread constitutional abuses by police. She and Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration also agreed to seek a consent decree.

President Donald Trump took office later that month and installed a new attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who quickly made dismissive comments about the Chicago investigation performed under his predecessor. Eventually, Emanuel joined forces with then-Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, and they pursued a consent decree on their own through a lawsuit filed by Madigan against the city.

The two sides revealed a draft of the consent decree last summer, after about a year of negotiations.

Dow held a two-day hearing last fall to take public comment about the proposal in the ceremonial courtroom on the 25th floor of the Dirksen Federal Courthouse. The judge heard from Chicagoans from all walks of life — from Black Lives Matter activists to the Chicago police officers to ministers.

The city’s police union has come out strongly against the decree, but Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson and Emanuel last month praised the approval of the document, in a joint statement, as a “step toward significant, lasting change.”

“Maggie Hickey’s experience as a former federal prosecutor and former executive inspector general will be beneficial as she assists Judge Dow in enforcing the consent decree, one of the most expansive in the country, and overseeing the implementation of comprehensive reform of CPD’s policies and practices,” Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul said in a statement Friday. “I am particularly pleased that Judge Dow’s made the additional appointment of a special master in this case. Judge Coar is uniquely qualified to assist the court, and I look forward to working with the independent monitor, the monitoring team and the special master to reform the practices of the police department.”

Last year, the Chicago Board of Education tapped Hickey, a former federal prosecutor, to lead an independent review of Chicago Public Schools, after the Chicago Tribune revealed widespread sexual abuse throughout the district.

Hickey’s preliminary report, released in August, said Chicago Public Schools failed at nearly every level at preventing, responding to and tracking hundreds of cases of sexual misconduct in recent years.

Coar served as a U.S. District Court judge for 16 years and a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge for eight years.

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