Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson, the department’s command staff and Chicago Police Board President Lori Lightfoot on Tuesday laid out plans for further reforms of the embattled department that range from improving community policing to revising CPD’s use-of-force policy.
The five-pronged approach will focus on improving manpower and supervision; a further investment in community policing; better officer training; revised guidance on use-of-force, and more transparency and accountability.
“I believe this framework demonstrates our commitment to keep the Chicago Police Department on the path to reform,” Johnson, flanked by his staff, told reporters at a Tuesday news conference at police headquarters. “And while reform is critical, it won’t be done in a vacuum.”
Training to establish the new reforms will begin sometime before the end of this year, with officers in supervisory roles receiving it first, Johnson said.
Among the changes being proposed was the establishment of a new police training oversight committee, to be chaired by First Deputy Supt. Kevin Navarro, that will oversee “all aspects” of training, Johnson said.
A new hotline and website are being set up for officers to anonymously report misconduct by their colleagues “without fear of being ostracized,” Johnson said.
The department also will allow for an additional public comment period — through March 16 — on another revision to the department’s use-of-force policy.
“The new policies emphasize the sanctity of life, the reasonable and proportional use of force, de-escalation and force mitigation, and limitations on the use of deadly force,” Johnson said.
He added that the public comments so far received by the department have been helpful in drafting new policies.
“We have to acknowledge that we don’t know everything,” he said.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the police department have been under intense pressure since November 2015, when a judge ordered the release of a police dashcam video that showed Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting black teenager Laquan McDonald 16 times.
Public outrage led to protests and calls for Emanuel to step down. Emanuel survived, but he also fired police Supt. Garry McCarthy. The McDonald controversy also is widely seen as a factor in the election defeat last year of Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, who did not charge Van Dyke with murder until after the release of the video. Van Dyke has pleaded not guilty.
In the waning days of President Barack Obama’s administration, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a scathing report in which it concluded that the Chicago Police Department had a long history of civil rights violations and excessive force. The findings were announced in Chicago by then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
But last month, President Donald Trump’s new attorney general, Jeff Sessions, sent his strongest signal to date that Emanuel will be on his own — without a consent decree and, therefore, without court oversight — to implement the sweeping police reforms that Lynch’s Justice Department had recommended.
Johnson said the department has been in discussion with all unions representing officers in crafting the reforms. Asked if the reforms could impact upcoming officer contract negotiations, Johnson said: “That remains to be seen.”
Dean Angelo, president of Lodge 7 of the Fraternal Order of Police, said though the union has regular contact with the department, most of the specifics in the proposed reforms have not been discussed.
Training for Field Training Officers has been addressed, Angelo said, adding that he was confident the other proposed reforms would be addressed before they’re implemented.
“I’m sure by the time this process gets to scheduling officers for classes and getting officers in the academy for familiarization and training, I will have had conversations with them,” Angelo said.
“What we are looking for are opportunities to articulate protections within the development and expansion of the program to make sure members have review opportunities,” he added.
Lightfoot acknowledged that the reforms would not be a cure-all, but could still help lay the groundwork for future improvements.
“This isn’t everything, it’s not the specifics of the project plan,” Lightfoot said. “But if these specific reforms are implemented in 2017 I feel confident they will create a foundation on which the department can continue to build.”
Contributing: Stefano Esposito