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City, AG Madigan near deal on Chicago Police consent decree

Sun-Times file photo

Lawyers for the city of Chicago and Attorney General Lisa Madigan have hammered out the bulk of a 200-page agreement that would put the Chicago Police Department under the oversight of a federal judge, except for one issue: whether or not the CPD should document each time officers point a gun at someone.

A draft of the agreement, called a consent decree, will be made public soon, Assistant Attorney General Cara Hendrickson said Friday at hearing in federal court.

Resolving the issue of whether officers will have to log occasions when they point their weapons at someone likely will require a ruling from U.S. District Judge Robert Dow, who is presiding over the case.

Officers currently are required to file reports any time they use force, including when their gun is fired, but not each time they pull their weapon and point it at someone.

The current draft runs to 700 paragraphs, and encompasses sections on police use of force, training, supervision and promotions, police accountability, crisis intervention, officer assistance and the role of an independent police monitor, Hendrickson said.

Hendrickson said the two sides hope to have a draft of the agreement available for release in the coming weeks.

No mention was made in open court of an apparent leak of the draft that formed the basis of a Fox News report on the negotiations.

The in-court announcement comes a little less than a year since Madigan announced she was entering negotiations with the city that were intended to end with a federal consent decree, similar to agreements negotiated by the U.S. Department of Justice for court oversight of troubled police departments in cities ranging from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles.

Formal negotiations began in November, and the two sides have held more than 50 bargain sessions, and have given “fulsome consideration” to the concerns of city officials, the community and rank-and-file officers, Hendrickson said.

The union representing the bulk of those officers disagreed with that characterization, said Joel D’Alba, an attorney representing the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7. The union in June filed a motion seeking to intervene in the case.

“We want to be a part of the process,” D’Alba said in court Friday, complaining that the union had not been party to the negotiations. “We have basically foreclosed . . . the opportunity for the kind of discussion on those substantive issues.”

Georgetown University Law School professor Christy Lopez –– a former federal prosecutor who led the Justice Department probe of the CPD that found a pattern of use-of-force violations by Chicago officers –– said that having data about when officers pull their guns on people is vital for information when a department is analyzing use of force.

Departments in Cleveland, New Orleans, Baltimore and Newark all included similar provisions in consent decrees.

“Basically, it just helps you figure out who and where and why people are pointing their firearms,” Lopez said. “Is it really just happening in more dangerous parts of the city? Is one officer pulling their firearm many more times than other officers in the same neighborhood?

“Pointing a gun at someone is a serious thing to do… you want information about those sorts of actions by police officers.”

DOJ investigations like the one Lopez led in Chicago typically have been followed by negotiations with the DOJ that have ended with consent decrees.

That process stalled in Chicago after President Donald Trump took office and appointed Jeff Session as U.S. Attorney General.

Lopez said Friday that it was gratifying to hear that a court-supervised reform agreement for CPD is nearing completion.