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Missing deadlines on consent decree not unusual, Beck and Lightfoot say

Soon-to-be interim superintendent said he’s “never seen a city get high marks” on its first report card after a consent decree.

Soon-to-be Interim Police Supt. Charlie Beck (left) answers questions from reporters at City Hall after Friday’s police and fire awards ceremony. Retiring Police Supt. Eddie Johnson is on the right.
Soon-to-be Interim Police Supt. Charlie Beck (left) answers questions from reporters at City Hall after Friday’s police and fire awards ceremony. Retiring Police Supt. Eddie Johnson is on the right.
Fran Spielman/Sun-Times

Soon-to-be interim Chicago Police Supt. Charlie Beck said Friday he’s “never seen a city get high marks” on its first report card after a consent decree, including his hometown of Los Angeles that made a “successful exit” from federal court oversight.

One week after a federal monitor reported the Chicago Police Department had missed 37 of 50 deadlines to implement specific reforms, Beck said that was not at all unusual.

“It takes a while to set up the systems and processes by which the consent decree has to be met. And obviously, if those systems were in place, the consent decree wouldn’t have been necessary,” Beck told reporters at City Hall after the annual Carter Harrison and Lambert Tree awards for police and fire bravery.

“We will do all of those things. And I think that the pace of success will rapidly increase once those things are in place.”

Beck was asked whether missing more than three-quarters of the previously negotiated and court-enforced deadlines on implementing police reforms was “normal” for a big-city police department.

“Well, until things are in place to meet the changes required, it’s very difficult to meet those changes. It’s not as simple as issuing an order. There has to be follow-up to that order. We will do that,” Beck said, with retiring Police Supt. Eddie Johnson standing silently at his side.

“I won’t comment on whether or not that was a typical quote-unquote report card. I’ll just say that I know that CPD can do better. And we will.”

While serving as police board president, Mayor Lori Lightfoot co-chaired the Task Force on Police Accountability created by former Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the furor that followed the court-ordered release of the Laquan McDonald shooting video.

The task force’s scathing indictment of CPD laid the groundwork for the U.S. Justice Department to do the same, setting the stage for the consent decree that is now in place.

Lightfoot agreed with Beck that the “cadence and milestones” required by the consent decree did not “match up with the existing infrastructure” at CPD.

But she argued there were also “some good things” in the monitors’ report and she is determined to “build on that success and make sure we move forward much more aggressively in the next quarter.”

“We hit that right cadence, but deep into the first period. So, the second period will be really where we can measure how we’re gonna move forward,” she said.

“We’re gonna provide them with the resources they need to be successful and we’re gonna build that infrastructure as quickly as possible. We’ve got to make sure that we’ve got enough of the right personnel in place to be moving forward to address the various paragraphs and demands of the consent decree.”

The mayor was also asked about the mounting pressure to deliver on her campaign promise to empower a civilian oversight board to establish police policy, take the first step toward removing the police superintendent and conduct a nationwide search for a replacement.

Lightfoot said there is “still some work to be done in working out the election component” of civilian police review. At the moment, her “primary focus” is on making sure the transition from Johnson to Beck goes smoothly and that Johnson’s permanent replacement is in place “as soon as possible.”

“I hope and I believe that the folks that are the proponents of civilian oversight know that we need to make sure that those things are in place because they will impact what civilian oversight looks like,” she said.

“We will get there. But we need to make sure that these other really important things are in place first. I understand their impatience. ... I understand that they’re anxious. And it will come. But it’s got to come in a way that is value-add to the policing infrastructure.”