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Lightfoot demands investigation of ‘leaked’ consent decree on police oversight

Lori Lightfoot, Rahm Emanuel

Mayoral challenger Lori Lightfoot and Mayor Rahm Emanuel| File images by Sun-Times, Getty Images

Mayoral challenger Lori Lightfoot on Wednesday demanded that Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration ask a presiding federal judge to investigate the leak of what was described as a draft consent decree outlining the terms for federal court oversight over the Chicago Police Department.

The former Police Board president who co-chaired the Mayor’s Task Force on Police Accountability demanded the investigation after Fox News posted a story contending that the network had obtained a draft of the consent decree being negotiated between City Hall and retiring Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

Lightfoot hinted strongly that she believes the source of the leak was the Fraternal Order of Police, which tried again last week 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 was saying the “clock is ticking” on a consent decree.

“This leak is a direct attack on the process of creating a Chicago Police Department that is transparent, accountable, and respectful of civil and constitutional rights,” Lightfoot was quoted as saying in an emailed statement.

“In its continued opposition to reform efforts, from the new use of force measure to body cameras, the Fraternal Order of Police places itself firmly on the side of a failed status quo that harms our citizens and every officer who seeks to do the right thing. Given the leak of this confidential draft, FOP’s prominent role in the story, and FOP’s history of opposing reform, Mayor Rahm Emanuel must direct the city law department to ask the presiding federal judge to investigate the leak. Anything less rewards FOP efforts to undermine police reform and accountability in this city.”

Emanuel’s communications director Adam Collins said the mayor’s office has been “partnering” with the Attorney General’s office for nearly a year “to cement our public safety reforms and continue to build on them.”

Collins refused to comment on Lightfoot’s demand for an investigation of the leaked consent decree, which may or may not be a current version.

He would only say, “We are negotiating in good faith with Chicago’s best interests at heart, and this work is too important to be dragged into the rumor mill, to become politicized by leaks or to be used as a cheap ploy to grab headlines. Nothing will distract us from the important work at hand.”

Madigan’s spokesman Maura Possley refused to comment on the leaked document.

FOP Vice-President Martin Preib refused to entertain any questions about the draft consent decree obtained by Fox News. Nor would he entertain any questions about the leak.

In the network’s story, Preib is quoted prominently as saying “The consent decree will make the simplest police duties and actions rife with ambiguity, and set up officers for discipline no matter how professional or appropriate their conduct.”

The story noted that the union was “most concerned” about a proposal that would “require officers to fill out a report every time they point their gun at a person.”

To substantiate the claim, the story quoted from a portion of the draft document that states, “Any time a CPD officer points a firearm at a person, the incident should be documented in a written report containing: the subject’s actual or perceived race, ethnicity, age and gender; the officer’s badge number, rank, and unit; the date, time and location of the incident; the outcome of the incident, including whether an arrest or citation was issued; and a narrative describing the reasons for the officer’s actions.”

According to Fox, the draft document “also mandates a limited and specific use of stun guns” and would require Chicago Police officers to intensely consider the “totality of their circumstances” before applying force.

The story quoted FOP President Kevin Graham as condemning that language and saying it would hamstring the most basic policing to the point where it would endanger Chicago Police.

“They’re putting our officers in a safety problem – immediately,” Graham was quoted as saying.

“You are going to see that officers may be hesitant, and we are not going to let our officers be injured or killed simply for a policy that makes other people feel good.”

In January, 2017, the U.S. Justice Department released a report that portrayed Chicago Police officers as poorly trained and equipped and inadequately supervised and seldom disciplined, despite a pattern of excessive force and civil rights abuses against minorities.

On the day the findings were announced, Emanuel signed an “agreement in principle” to negotiate a consent decree, culminating in the appointment of a federal monitor, to implement the sweeping police reforms the Justice Department recommended.

But when U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions signaled his disdain for court mandates that tie the hands of local police departments and ordered a nationwide review of those consent decrees, Emanuel worked in secret with the Justice Department to draft a “memorandum of agreement” tailor-made to avoid federal court oversight.

Police reform advocates were united in their outrage, but the mayor stood his ground for months.

It was only after Madigan filed a lawsuit against the city in August 2017 that Emanuel finally agreed to negotiate with Madigan to finalize a consent decree — with rigid timetables and financial commitments.

Days earlier, the city had sought to dismiss a similar lawsuit on grounds that Emanuel’s “extensive, ongoing reform efforts,” including a groundbreaking training initiative, made the legal claims moot.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported last week that the FOP was doing its best to grind the process of negotiating a consent decree to a halt.

The union filed a “motion to hold the proceedings in abeyance” pending a ruling on the motion to intervene it filed last month.

The FOP maintains that it should be party to the lawsuit because any agreed upon reforms could go against the union’s contract with the city.