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Judge denies FOP bid to join consent decree lawsuit but says cops will be heard

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

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

Promising he will give the Fraternal Order of Police — “and indeed all Chicago police officers” — a chance to be heard, a federal judge Thursday nevertheless denied an attempt by the police union to formally intervene in a lawsuit expected to lead to a consent decree governing reform efforts at CPD.

In a 25-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Robert Dow said the FOP waited too long to try to intervene in the federal lawsuit brought by Attorney General Lisa Madigan against the city of Chicago, “despite its clear recognition” through public comments that the case could significantly affect policing in Chicago.

The judge said the state offered to let the FOP enter into a memorandum of agreement — along with a coalition of community groups — giving it the right to raise objections and give input toward the consent decree. But citing state attorneys, the judge said the FOP refused the offer — a decision the FOP doesn’t deny.

Therefore, Dow said the FOP’s decision to publicly oppose the consent decree but limit its own role in negotiations “appears to have been strategic, and it must live with the consequences of that decision as it relates to this belated attempt to intervene as a party in this lawsuit.”

FOP representatives did not respond to requests for comment. Representatives for Madigan and the city declined to comment.

Still, Dow wrote, police have been given an opportunity to have their voices heard. He noted that state attorneys had eight meetings with FOP President Kevin Graham and held 13 focus groups with police officers. A website about the proposed consent decree includes a document entitled: “Opinions of Officers of the Chicago Police Department on the Upcoming Consent Decree.”

And, Dow promised, “before deciding whether to enter a consent decree, and on what terms, the Court will give the FOP and indeed all Chicago police officers every opportunity to be heard — just not as parties to the litigation.”

The FOP moved to intervene in the lawsuit in June, nine months after the case was filed, arguing that any agreed upon reforms could go against the union’s contract with the city. It later filed a “motion to hold the proceedings in abeyance” until Dow decided whether to let the FOP become a party to the case. On Thursday, Dow denied that motion as moot.

In the meantime, a wide-ranging draft of the consent decree was unveiled late last month. It would address virtually every aspect of policing in Chicago and the controversies engulfing it in recent years.

Graham blasted it at the time as “illegal and invalid.”