REPORT: Chicago Police Dept Has Long History of Racism

By Kenrya Rankin Apr 15, 2016

From the dashcam video that showed a police officer shoot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times to the youth-led activism that pushed out the state’s attorney who many felt covered up that shooting, Chicago has been under fire of late for its race problem. Now, a new report from the Police Accountability Task Force outlines exactly how much racism informs the city’s justice system.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel created the task force in response to calls for his resignation for his role in keeping the facts of the McDonald shooting from the public. The group examined the Chicago Police Department’s (CPD) relationship with the community in five specific areas: community relations, legal oversight and accountability, early intervention and personnel concerns, de-escalation and video release policies.

From the report:

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…. 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. …

As we dug deeper into the complaints of so many about the callous and disrespectful way in which they had been treated by some officers, we also understood that we had an important duty to lay bare the systemic and sanctioned practices that led to the deaths of fellow citizens and the deprivation of the rights of so many others. We have borne witness to many hard truths which have profound and lasting impacts on the lives and hopes of individuals and communities. Our recommendations are intended to be responsive to the people, empower the people and to specifically identify a range of changes that are essential to building trust, accountability and lasting change.

“I don’t really think you need a task force to know we have racism in America, we have racism in Illinois or that there is racism that exists in the city of Chicago and obviously can be in our departments,” Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel said ahead of the report’s April 13 release, according to the Chicago Tribune. “The question isn’t, ‘Do we have racism?’ We do. The question is, ‘What are you going to do about it?’”

The task force has plenty of recommendations for what Emanuel and CPD can do to address racism in the police department. Chief among them:

  • Replace the Independent Police Review Authority with a transparent Civilian Police Investigative Agency
  • Hire a deputy chief of diversity and inclusion for CPD
  • Expand community patrols and beat-based policing
  • Train officers to engage with youth via a restorative justice model
  • Create city and county programing that addresses systemic racism, poverty, socioeconomic inequities and education disparities
  • Implement “Know Your Rights” training for youth
  • Hire a dedicated inspector general for public safety who independently audits and monitors the department for patterns of racial bias
  • Change collective bargaining agreement provisions that impede accountability
  • Create a written video release policy for officer-involved shootings
  • Increase use of body-worn cameras
  • Post officer disciplinary info online
  • Create a Mental Health Critical Response Unit

Read the full report here.