The Chicago Police Department attracted unwanted attention after a scathing report criticized its failures and demanded deep reforms.
The Chicago Police Accountability Task Force, formed last December by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, found that the department “is beset by racism and needs sweeping reforms to help it win back trust in the community,” according to USA Today.
The report recommended more than 100 reforms aimed at “empowering people” and “addressing lack of accountability,” among other efforts for transparency, police training, and misconduct.
Emanuel created the task force in the wake of calls for reform that found him in a tense position with the city’s police. Chicagoans have been frustrated in the lack of action on police misconduct and high-profile police shootings in recent years. With the task force’s report, the city hopes to improve relations and confront its history that has “left the people totally alienated from the police,” Task Force Chair Lori E. Lightfoot said.
“The Chicago Police Department cannot begin to build trust, repair what is broken and tattered unless – from the top leadership on down – it faces these hard truths, acknowledges what it has done at the individual and institutional levels, and earnestly reaches out in respect,” she said.
Chicago’s police union, the Fraternal Order of Police, sharply disagreed with the report.
“I believe they had an agenda or a built-in bias going in,” FOP President Dean Angelo Sr. told the Chicago Tribune. “And I don’t see the need to do that when the Department of Justice are the subject matter experts, not the task force.”
As criticism of the department grew, the police have been accused of a work slowdown. An analysis by FiveThirtyEight found that gun violence increased, and arrests fell, after the city released a video of police shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in November. “This suggests a decline in law enforcement activity that may be contributing to the rise in gun crime,” Rob Arthur and Jeff Asher wrote. The rise in public scrutiny led to a backlash from the police.
The report found that black Chicagoans were 74 percent “of the persons killed or injured” in officer involved shootings from 2008-2015, and 76 percent of taser-discharge targets between 2012-2015. They were also disproportionately involved in traffic stops, street stops, and vehicular searches.
The public has trouble getting the city to seriously consider their concerns about the department, too.
Forty percent of complained filed with Chicago’s oversight system, the Independent Police Review Authority, between 2011-2015, were never fully investigated.
Emanuel has made efforts to address public concern, but his success “could largely depend on whether the political will exists to do it,” the Christian Science Monitor noted. That’s a high bar. Chicago still struggles with public corruption and has the dishonor of being “the most corrupt major city in the country over the last 40 years.”