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Consent decree’s independent monitor vows to build trust during ‘marathon’ police reform process

Maggie Hickey was chosen in March as the independent monitor who will oversee the court-approved reform plan for the Chicago Police Department.

chicago police consent decree
Members of the community share their questions and concerns about the Chicago police consent decree at a public meeting June 25, 2019.
Nader Issa/Sun-Times

The team tasked with overseeing Chicago’s historic consent decree that’s meant to bring widespread reforms to the city’s Police Department held its first public meeting Tuesday to draw community input on the process.

But with low turnout — only about 40 people showed up at Kennedy-King College in Englewood — the former federal prosecutor monitoring the reform plan said her biggest takeaway was that she’ll have to do a better job seeking people out to learn how they want Chicago police to change.

“They’re not going to come to me. They’re not going to come to a meeting at Kennedy-King College,” said Maggie Hickey, who was named independent monitor in March. “That doesn’t mean we’ll stop having our quarterly meetings or traveling around the city to learn. But it means that I have to get out there, and I need to be where the kids are at.”

Hickey — who called implementation of the consent decree a “marathon, not a sprint” — said she understands that a lot of Chicagoans’ distrust of police likely carries over to her and the decree. That’s why she said she plans to put in the work to show she really does care about helping.

Maggie Hickey: “I know that my dad was heartbroken when he learned of what went on at the bank.”
Maggie Hickey, the independent monitor tasked with overseeing the Chicago police consent decree, speaks at a public meeting June 25, 2019.
Nader Issa / Sun-Times file

“I’m here to build trust,” Hickey said. “They don’t know me. I’m going to have to work every day to gain their trust, and that’s my goal.”

Hickey was chosen to oversee the decree by U.S. District Judge Robert Dow Jr after an eight-month search that started in July 2018. Dow approved the decree in January, just more than two years after then-U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch came to Chicago to announce the Justice Department had found widespread constitutional abuses by police.

After President Donald Trump’s new attorney general, Jeff Sessions, made dismissive comments about his predecessor’s investigation, the city instead worked with then-Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to pursue a consent decree 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.

Hickey’s team filed its plan in May for the first year of monitoring and is expected to produce two reports per year on the progress of implementing the decree. The first report is set to come sometime in September.

chicago consent decree
Flora Suttle (blue shirt) discusses the Chicago police consent decree more than seven years after her son was killed by police.
Nader Issa/Sun-Times

Flora Suttle, a 71-year-old grandmother whose son, Derrick, was killed by police in 2012, said after Tuesday’s meeting that she’s the first to say there’s distrust of police, but she still wants to see how the consent decree plays out.

“People don’t trust the police, period. So they don’t trust anything that has to do with the police,” said Suttle, who attended with her 23-year-old granddaughter. “But you have to give it a chance. You can’t say you don’t like it when you don’t know what it does.”