There’s so much more at stake in the U.S. Department of Justice report on the Chicago Police Department than the political future of Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The more he keeps that in mind, the more likely he is to have one, a political future, that is.

What we’re really dealing with is the future of the whole city of Chicago, because if we can’t figure out how to get this right, how to effectively yet fairly provide for the security of the citizenry, then it all falls apart.

The more the rest of us keep that in mind, the politics will take care of itself.

Lives are at stake here. Lives of citizens. Lives of police officers. It could be your life or that of your children.


There’s something broken in the Chicago Police Department. We’ve all kind of known that, although some of us were perhaps too willing to accept it, either because it didn’t affect us personally or because we didn’t know how to change it.

Justice Department officials have recommended an aggressive prescription for change at CPD.

Is it exactly the right treatment plan to cure all the department’s ills, many of which date back so long they have been incorporated into its culture?

I’m no expert, so I can’t be sure. But I know enough to see there’s real change contemplated in its recommendations, not just the surface alterations I might have expected.

Nor can I say whether we really need a federal judge, working through a court-appointed independent monitor, to oversee the Police Department, which is what will happen in a consent decree. But it’s time to give it a try.

Emanuel has no choice than to embrace the Justice Department findings, leaving room only for disagreements on honest differences of opinion about particular policy approaches.

The mayor has so far done exactly that, recovering from the initial stumble where he dismissed the idea of an investigation as “misguided,” then realizing he’d better get on board because the train was leaving the station and he was in danger of getting run over.

The conjecture that Emanuel will allow the incoming Trump Administration to let him off the hook before he follows through on making changes seems misplaced.

No matter the views of our new president and Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions about policing and consent decrees, the die is cast. Emanuel will need to show the city’s minority residents who were most often the victims of its unconstitutional policing methods that he has followed through on his promises.

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you there’s much in the Justice Department report that will immediately address the violence currently menacing Chicago, or to restore the more pro-active policing practices that might stop some of the killings.

Chicago police officers are bound to be even further confounded by the report’s findings that they engage in too many dangerous foot pursuits, make excessive use of Tasers and need greater oversight whenever they use any type of force to make an arrest.

Despite all the efforts in Friday’s press conference to assure police officers that they aren’t being blamed, and that many of the recommended changes were borne from their ranks, I doubt they will see it that way. It will take time to prove it to them.

The hope must be that U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon was right in calling the report a “historic turning point” for the city that will at long last get the Police Department aimed in the right direction.

“By providing CPD officers first-class training, proper supervision, a promotion system that is fair and is perceived to be fair.  By having an accountability system, with consistent rules and results, that holds officers accountable when they violate law or policy. By doing those things we rebuild trust and repair relationships, and make Chicago safer and stronger,” Fardon said.

You’ve heard this before, but it’s still true: we didn’t get ourselves into this mess overnight, and we won’t get out of it overnight either.