Major new regulations, benefits proposed for Chicago police, but cop union balks
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A wide-ranging and already controversial draft of a consent decree that would govern the Chicago Police Department’s reform efforts was unveiled Friday afternoon. It’s a document that seeks to more tightly regulate cops in their use of force and offer more transparency to the public when police are disciplined, but it also would give Chicago cops more training and mental health help when they need it.
The agreement is a byproduct of a federal lawsuit brought against the city by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan after a damning federal investigation of the CPD following the release of the Laquan McDonald shooting video in late 2015.
The 225-page consent decree addresses virtually every aspect of policing in Chicago and the controversies engulfing it in recent years: use of force and how it’s reported; community policing; accountability and transparency; recruitment, hiring and promotions; training and supervision; officer wellness; crisis intervention and data management.
The consent decree was barely public Friday when it attracted criticism from the main police union, the Fraternal Order of Police, and was used as a club by the politicians running against Mayor Rahm Emanuel for his job next year.
At a news conference announcing the consent decree, Emanuel said that the presence of a federal judge and monitor make these reform efforts different from others that have failed before.
“It is enforceable and it marks a difference because it will have a monitor and a judge who will ensure that the changes we make are lasting and go into the fabric and culture of the police department,” Emanuel said.
The public will be able to comment on the proposed agreement until Aug. 17. An independent monitor will also be appointed by U.S. District Judge Robert Dow, and applications will be accepted by the Illinois Attorney General’s office through Sept. 4.
The deadline for the consent decree to be submitted is Sept. 1, and it will remain in effect until a federal judge deems the department conforms to the terms and shows it will remain in line. It’s unclear how much the oversight will cost taxpayers, but the final legal tab will certainly run into the millions of dollars.
“The reform effort will continue regardless of who sits in our seats,” Madigan said Friday at the news conference. Madigan is not running for re-election.
In the agreement, the CPD would have to review its use of force policy every year; officers would be required to issue verbal warnings before using force as well as provide life-saving aid and receive crisis intervention training. Data documenting police use of force would be published every month.
By 2020, members of the public who file complaints against officers must be able to view and track the status of those complains on the internet. By 2022, the ratio of officers under the command of a single supervisor would have to be 10 to 1.
Also, officers would be prohibited from using stun guns if someone is only running away. The decree extends to Civilian Office of Police Accountability or COPA, which along with the CPD’s Internal Affairs Division, would be required to complete all investigations within 180 days.
CPD must take steps to address the stresses of officers and make efforts to curb the high suicide rate of department members.
The agreement would also compel the city and police union to “use their best efforts to renegotiate collective bargaining provisions, including the prohibition on anonymous complaint investigations and revealing complainant identities prior to administrative interviews.”
Collective bargaining agreements, though, would not be superseded by any consent decree.
Some provisions of the agreement are in line with steps already taken by the CPD.
The entire agreement can be read on the Attorney General’s website, chicagopoliceconsentdecree.org.
On Friday, FOP President Kevin Graham blasted the consent decree as “illegal and invalid.”
“We have a very strong court challenge to it,” Graham said.
Earlier this month, the union filed a “motion to hold the proceedings in abeyance” pending a ruling on the motion to intervene that the union filed last month.
Two aldermen, Nick Sposato and Anthony Napolitano, who both represent wards on the Northwest Side that are home to scores of Chicago Police officers, said they stood with the FOP.
Despite those criticisms, the city’s top cop insisted “police officers want change in the department.”
“They want better training, better resources,” Police Supt. EddieJohnson said. “The FOP has their opinions and they’re entitled to it, certainly. But we are committed and determined to make CPD better.”
One point that’s still a subject of contention: whether officers will have to document each time they point their guns at someone.
Attorneys for the city, state and representatives from the police department said they’ll be back at the negotiating table Monday to hammer out the last sticking point.
“We will be prepared, if necessary to litigate that issue,” Madigan said.
Emanuel added, “We don’t have to go to litigation, but we’ve got to get it right.”
Earlier this year, Black Lives Matter and other activist groups won a seat at the table as the city and state hashed out the agreement — a ruling that enraged the union.
Craig Futterman, a University of Chicago law professor who represents the groups, said the FOP’s “agenda is to evade oversight.”
“They don’t want anyone — the public, the press, the community — looking at what they do,” Futterman said.
Black Lives Matter echoed Futterman, saying that “it is no surprise that they don’t want to track how many times they’ve pulled their guns out or have to explain why they’re doing it so often.”
In a mayoral election where police reform is already to be a hot-button issue, some challengers to Emanuel used the the release of the proposed decree to bash the mayor’s leadership while touting their own public safety credentials.
Former CPS CEO Paul Vallas said he’s already suggested a number of “common sense approaches” included in the agreement.
“For the past seven years, Rahm Emanuel has played politics with the Chicago Police Department and his micromanaging has done significant damage,” Vallas said in a statement.
Lori Lightfoot — the former president of the Chicago Police Board and chair of the Police Accountability Task Force — praised the agreement but said “there are some clear issues” with it and she’d be reviewing it.