Last Friday, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) released the results of its probe into the Chicago Police Department. It found CPD’s excessive use of force in violation of the Fourth Amendment and has taken steps toward establishing a consent decree with the department. This means the CPD will continue operating (though unconstitutionally) while working with the DOJ on a list of recommendations over the coming years. The report found that the lack of strong investigative agencies to discipline CPD officers—as well as poor training overall and a lack of direction, supervision, and support for its officers—has led to a pattern or practice of excessive and unconstitutional use of force within the department. In short, CPD officers can do whatever they want with almost no fear of repercussion. The conclusions reached by the DOJ can be grouped into two recommendations: first, that stronger penalties need to be put in place to deter police misconduct and unconstitutional use of force, and second, that further resources need to be provided for police when it comes to accountability, training, supervision, officer wellness, data collection and transparency, and community policing. For those who are rightfully wary of the CPD to begin with, the idea of granting further resources to the department is a hard pill to swallow.
In December of 2015, after massive public outcry over the killing of Laquan McDonald, the U.S. Department of Justice initiated a probe into the Chicago Police Department. The thirteen-month investigation, for which the Department spent hundreds of days in Chicago, conducted hundreds of interviews, and reviewed tens of thousands of pages of documentation, resulted in the release last Friday of a 160-page report. The report concludes that CPD engages in the unconstitutional use of force and suffers from severely broken training and accountability systems. Below we have highlighted particularly jarring numbers, anecdotes, and conclusions from this report.
This story was a finalist for the 2017 “Best in-depth Reporting in a Community Newspaper” Peter Lisagor Award from the Chicago Headline Club
This is a postscript to “Lightning Doesn’t Strike Twice,” an essay on the one year anniversary of the Black Friday 2015 protests against the police killing of Laquan McDonald.
Forrest Stuart, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Chicago, joined Jamie Kalven, writer and executive director of the Invisible Institute, at the Seminary Co-Op last Wednesday to speak about Stuart’s new book Down, Out, and Under Arrest: Policing and Everyday Life in Skid Row.
These arbitration awards are not the end of the battle over these records, as both Crystal and Roumell’s decisions simply continue the preservation of the documents. Though the awards are legally binding, they are subject to appeal, and both Kalven and Futterman hedged when discussing their merits with the Sun-Times, calling them “sort of a reprieve,” and a “timeout,” respectively.
Over the years, journalists have covered the Chicago police from every angle, documenting not only police violence against communities of color but also the Department’s internal methods for protecting officers and disguising the truth about performance and misconduct. In light of the release of the Police Accountability Task Force report, the Weekly has collected here some of the most impactful and relevant coverage of the CPD.
A consent decree could lead to substantial changes in how the CPD uses force and handles complaints.