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FOP tries again to slow down consent decree negotiations

Kevin Graham

Kevin Graham, president of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police. | Sam Charles/Sun-Times file photo

The Fraternal Order of Police is trying yet again to slow down negotiations aimed at forcing federal court oversight over the Chicago Police Department just as an attorney representing Black Lives Matter and other groups is saying the “clock is ticking” on a consent decree.

University of Chicago law professor Craig Futterman, lead counsel for those groups, said the city and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who is not running for re-election, need to wrap up negotiations within days to guarantee two-to-four weeks of public input on the consent decree before a Sept. 1 court deadline.

“If you’re building in something like two-to-four-weeks for public comment and further negotiations by the city and state that could take up to another four weeks, you’re now in September,” Futterman said Friday.

“If you don’t do that now or soon, you’re risking not having either an opportunity for public feedback, which would be devastating to all the parties. Or not having sufficient time just to review because there’s a new attorney general who could have a completely different mission and a new mayor, for that matter.”

The FOP is doing its best to grind the process to a halt.

On Thursday, 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.

“Representatives of the lodge have not been allowed to discuss with the parties in particular the several drafts of a consent decree that have been exchanged between the parties and the substantive provisions of the consent decree that would impact the wages, hours and working conditions contained in the current collective bargaining agreement,” the new motion states.

A letter to Assistant Chief Deputy Attorney General Gary S. Caplan attached to the FOP filing urges the city and state not to “present to the court a completed and agreed upon consent decree” until the union, which has so far been “shut out,” is allowed to participate in those discussions.

“Disposing of this action without the lodge’s participation may impair or impede the ability of the lodge to protect its collective bargaining interests,” the letter, signed by FOP attorney Joel A. D’Alba, says.

City Hall sources said negotiations with Madigan’s office are “proceeding in good faith” and “getting closer” to a consent decree.

But release of a draft agreement is still “a few weeks away,” the sources said.

Futterman branded the FOP’s latest motion par for the course.

“Along with their motion to intervene, they filed a motion to dismiss the case. They don’t want a consent decree. They don’t want federal oversight. It’s not about a seat at the table or a greater police officer voice in this process. It’s about they don’t want oversight at all,” Futterman said.

“They say, `There’s no code of silence. There never was any police torture, even back in the Burge era.’ That’s what the current administration of the FOP has said: That the [Justice Department] investigation was a fraud.”

The City Council’s Black Caucus is threatening to hold up ratification of any police contract that continues to make it “easy for officers to lie” by giving them 24 hours before providing a statement after a shooting and includes “impediments to accountability” that prohibit anonymous complaints, allow officers to change statements after reviewing video and requires sworn affidavits.

Futterman said he does not expect the consent decree to tie the city’s hands in police contract talks that have not yet begun in earnest, even though the contract expired a year ago.

But he argued that a consent decree should prohibit the city from including certain provisions in any future collective bargaining agreement because those union protections have served as an impediment to police discipline.

“If we’re going to ultimately eliminate ongoing civil rights violations in Chicago, that needs to be addressed.”

Fired Chicago Police Supt.-turned mayoral challenger Garry McCarthy argued earlier this week that officers should be allowed to see any video of an incident before making a statement because police shootings are “traumatic events.”

“Having been through a number of traumatic events, then talking to my peers, we all saw different things,” he said.

“It’s not like they’re lying. They probably believe what they’re saying. The problem is, their minds are clouded by the aggressive nature of the adrenaline and the traumatic impact of those things.”