Want to weigh in on Chicago police reform? Here’s how

SHARE Want to weigh in on Chicago police reform? Here’s how
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Sun-Times file photo

A federal judge has laid out plans for a historic two-day hearing offering members of the public a chance to weigh in on a proposed consent decree that would govern police reform in Chicago.

It’s another part of the ripple effect from the Oct. 20, 2014, shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke. It comes a few weeks after Van Dyke’s conviction on second-degree murder charges in the shooting.

U.S. District Judge Robert Dow will preside over the hearing, which will be held Wednesday and Thursday in the ceremonial courtroom on the 25th floor of the Dirksen Federal Courthouse, 219 S. Dearborn. Dow handed down an order Monday afternoon detailing how he expects the hearing to play out.

The hearing will run from 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m. both days. Courtroom doors will open at 8:45 a.m., and seats will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. People who leave the courtroom will forfeit their seats and may not reserve them with coats, backpacks or other articles, according to the order.

Anyone who wants to speak at the hearing must register with an approved form of identification. Because a limited number of five-minute speaker slots will be available, the judge plans to use a lottery system to decide who gets to speak, and in what order.

Clerk employees will register potential speakers outside the courtroom and issue lottery numbers between 7 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. Wednesday. Lottery numbers will be drawn at 8:30 a.m., and a list will be generated to determine speaking order.

Potential speakers may only register for themselves, according to the order. They may not register an organization or another person.

If more people register on Wednesday than can be accommodated that day, the clerk’s office will issue slots on Thursday to people who entered the Wednesday lottery. If Wednesday’s speaker slots are not filled, the same lottery process will be repeated Thursday.

Any person turned away will be allowed to submit written remarks no later than Nov. 2.

“It is expected that any such submissions will not exceed the length of comments that could be delivered orally in 5 minutes,” the order states.

Registered speakers will be assigned seats in the courtroom. After the speakers have made their remarks, they will eventually be asked to leave their seats so another round of speakers may be accommodated.

Overflow seating will be made available in Courtroom 2503, where audio and video of the hearing will be transmitted.

Chicago has been preparing for the proposed consent decree ever since late 2015, when Van Dyke was charged with McDonald’s murder. The Justice Department then launched an investigation and found in January 2017 a pattern of constitutional rights violations by Chicago police.

However, President Donald Trump entered the White House later that month. And rather than working with the feds toward a consent decree, Mayor Rahm Emanuel found himself negotiating the decree with Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

A jury found Van Dyke guilty earlier this month of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery. He is behind bars in the Rock Island County Jail.

Meanwhile, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has slammed the proposed consent decree, insisting, “the bravery of Chicago police is not in question. Their love for this city is not in question. What is in question, however, is the support and political courage of their elected officials.”

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