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After sharp criticism, Lightfoot tells use-of-force review group that its work was ‘not in vain’

The Chicago Police Department accepted five of 155 recommended changes submitted by the group.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said a large portion of the Use of Force Working Group’s recommendations “are already expressed in existing CPD policies.”
Sun-Times file

After members of a working group tasked with reviewing the Chicago Police Department’s use-of-force policies cried foul that their recommendations largely fell on deaf ears, Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Wednesday sent the group a letter to reassure them that their four months of work was “not in vain.”

The 20-person Use of Force Working Group was convened over the summer in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.

In recent days, the group has sharply criticized the city and CPD for, essentially, shrugging off the lion’s share of the group’s proposed recommendations. Members of the working group said the city summarily rejected all but five of the 155 recommendations.

University of Chicago law professor and working group member Craig Futterman said “one of the biggest things we learned” throughout the review process was that “the CPD never had any intention of engaging with people most impacted by police abuse to examine and modify CPD policy in the first place.”

The city has pushed back on that characterization, though, saying many of the group’s suggestions were not feasible because they go against existing laws or were beyond the group’s scope. Lightfoot contended a large portion of the group’s recommendations “are already expressed in existing CPD policies,” such as the requirement that every instance in which an officer points their gun at someone be documented.

“Your involvement and participation in the policymaking process has potential to lead to actionable and important changes, and unfairly undermining the process with unfortunate misstatements will not advance that shared goal or bridge any divides,” Lightfoot told the group.

“It is important for the Working Group to inform itself of reforms that have already been adopted, particularly when making public statements about a perceived lack of reform,” the mayor added. “To publicly criticize the CPD or the City for not making changes, when the changes have already been made, is wrong and unfair.”

The CPD said it hasn’t yet made a final decision about how many recommendations it will adopt, and a spokesman for the department said changes to the department’s use-of-force policy will likely take effect early next year after a public comment period.

In an emailed statement, CPD Supt. David Brown said he has directed senior members of his staff to go back and reevaluate the working group’s recommendations to “determine if any additional efforts could be adopted or if tweaks could be made to ensure these recommendations are within the purview of the law and consent decree.”

The department is compiling a full list of its responses to each of the group’s recommendations and will submit those to Maggie Hickey, the independent monitor whose team oversees the CPD’s consent decree.