Chicago Police Must Face ‘Hard Truths’ About Racist Past, Task Force Draft Report Says

Jeff Coen and Stacy St. Clair, Chicago Tribune, April 13, 2016

The Chicago Police Department must acknowledge its racist history and overhaul its handling of excessive force allegations before true reforms can take place, according to a scathing draft report from the task force established by Mayor Rahm Emanuel following public unrest over the Laquan McDonald video.

The Police Accountability Task Force’s report–which is scheduled to be released as early as this week–blisters both the Police Department and its primary oversight agency, blaming them for a “broken” system rooted in racial bias and indifference. It also targets the collective bargaining agreements between the city and police union for turning the “code of silence into official policy,” according to a draft of the executive summary obtained by the Tribune.

The 18-page executive summary recommends abolishing the Independent Police Review Authority, which investigates allegations of officer misconduct, and implementing a citywide reconciliation process beginning with the “superintendent publicly acknowledging CPD’s history of racial disparity and discrimination.”

The full report of the task force is expected to be much longer and be delivered to Emanuel this week.

“Reform is possible if there is a will and a commitment. But where reform must begin is with an acknowledgment of the sad history and present conditions which have left the people totally alienated from the police, and afraid for their physical and emotional safety,” according to the draft report. “And while many individuals and entities have a role to play, the change must start with CPD. CPD 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 with respect.”

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“The linkage between racism and CPD did not just bubble up in the aftermath of the release of the McDonald video. Racism and maltreatment at the hands of the police have been consistent complaints from communities of color for decades,” the report states. “False arrests, coerced confessions and wrongful convictions are also a part of this history. Lives lost and countless more damaged. These events and others mark a long, sad history of death, false imprisonment, physical and verbal abuse and general discontent about police actions in neighborhoods of color.”

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Emanuel already has embraced one task force recommendation, announcing in February that he supports releasing videos of police-involved shootings within 60 days of the incidents.

Among the other recommendations in the task force report:

•”Reinvigorate community policing as a core philosophy,” while replacing CAPS with a plan for commanders to interact with community stakeholders at the district level.

•Create the post of deputy chief of diversity and inclusion in CPD.

•Create a “smart 911 system” that would allow city residents to pre-enter information on mental-health issues that could assist first-responders who arrive at a particular address or interact with a particular person.

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“The community’s lack of trust in CPD is justified,” the report states. “There is substantial evidence that people of color–particularly African-Americans–have had disproportionately negative experiences with the police over an extended period of time. There is also substantial evidence that these experiences continue today through significant disparate impacts associated with the use of force, foot and traffic stops and bias in the police oversight system itself.”

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