At Issue: Checking in on the Task Force
Lightfoot: “Little progress”
The “vast majority” of recommendations made by the mayor’s Police Accountability Task Force last year “have not been implemented,” said Police Board president Lori Lightfoot, who chaired the task force, speaking on CAN-TV’s Chicago Newsroom.
Host Ken Davis asked Lightfoot about Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s claim, shortly after the task force issued its report last April, that he had implemented one-third of its recommendations. Lightfoot declined to comment on Emanuel’s claim.
“There were 126 specific recommendations that were purposely designed to be a matrix that fits together, not to be one-off things,” she said. “There were clearly things you can do on a one-off basis, but the point was to move forward in a strategic, thoughtful way, and that has not happened.”
In a wide-ranging interview, Lightfoot expresses frustration with the lack of progress on police training in nearly a year since the task force “mapped out [the issue] in bold relief” — with the Justice Department reviewing training initiatives over the past year and finding them sorely lacking. She talks about the failure of the policy of stop and frisk — a “light bulb came on for me” listening to older black professional women testifying about how they had been disrespected in street stops, she said — and links the defunding of social services by the state with the upsurge in shootings over the past two years.
She calls on Mayor Rahm Emanuel to “come up with a comprehensive plan” for improving law enforcement with a timeline for rolling out its components. She adds, “I want him to recognize that reform and accountability go hand in hand with effective crime fighting.”
New disciplinary guidelines
Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said new disciplinary guidelines represent “a starting point” and that going forward, “we will tweak it to try and get it as right as we can,” WBEZ reported.
The “complaint register matrix” which took effect last Wednesday does not incorporate major changes recommended by the Justice Department in its recent report on the Chicago Police Department.
The DOJ report said CPD’s new discipline matrix is unnecessarily vague in some categories; prescribes “unduly low punishments for conduct that is inconsistent with constitutional policing”; doesn’t provide progressive punishment for repeat offenders; and includes disciplinary ranges that are “so large that they provide no useful guidance.”
DOJ pointed to one category including sex offenses and conspiracy to commit a crime, with recommended discipline ranging from 31 to 365 days, adding, “It is unclear why the city believes that an officer found to have engaged in some of these offenses should remain on the police force at all.”
The recommended punishment for verbal abuse involving a racial slur runs from a one-day suspension to firing, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Police union officials maintained the disciplinary guidelines should have been negotiated as part of upcoming contract renewals and were “weighing options for fighting their implementation,” according to the Tribune.
Cops in schools
Out of 250 officers stationed in Chicago Public Schools, several have “disturbing complaints” on their records, including “two who have killed teenagers, one who was sued for beating a minor, and one who was recommended for firing by the Police Board,” according to an investigation by City Bureau and the Chicago Reader. Some 33 officers had more than eight complaints, far above the department average.
Cops in schools receive no youth-specific training, undergo no systematic screening, and are not subject of effective review, according to the report.
The mayor’s Police Accountability Task Force reported last year that Chicago officers were “not adequately equipped to engage with youth,” and DOJ’s recent report found officers “[subjected] children to force for non-criminal conduct and minor violations,” including an incident where a 16-year-old girl was beaten and Tasered after being asked to leave school for having a cell phone in violation of school rules.
And according to another new report, “The mere presence of police in schools increase the likelihood that students will be referred to law enforcement for adolescent behaviors,” putting students “on the fast track to the school-to-prison pipeline.”
“Handcuffs in Hallways” from the Sargent Shriver Center on Poverty Law traces the history of police in Chicago schools from the “Officer Friendly” program in the 1960s to the dramatic expansion — in numbers and authority — of police in schools under federal initiatives in the 1990s.
Between 2012 and 2016, police officers assigned to CPS amassed $215,000 in misconduct settlements for in-school incidents and $1.5 million in lawsuits charging excessive force against a minor.
The Shriver Center calls for improved training, screening and monitoring; protections for students’ civil rights; an end to arrests for violations of the CPS disciplinary code; a CPS complaint process; and public reporting on arrests and use-of-force incidents.
Van Dyke trial
Attorneys for Officer Jason Van Dyke filed a second motion seeking to have his indictment dismissed, arguing that the grand jury that indicted Van Dyke for first degree murder in the death of Laquan McDonald “was deceived on critical issues.”
Prosecutors improperly told jurors that Van Dyke and other officers on the scene tampered with video and audio evidence, and that McDonald was first shot in the back, according to the motion, the Tribune reported.
A previous motion to dismiss charges argued prosecutors improperly used statements by Van Dyke that he was required to give to investigators.
Judge Vincent Gaughan said any evidentiary hearings on the motions would be held in public. The Tribune recently reported on Gaughan’s penchant for secrecy, holding extensive proceedings in his chambers with no court reporter present.
Supt. Johnson said he’s “extremely ecstatic” about the representation of minorities among 16,500 people who have applied to CPD in the last two months, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
African Americans represented about 35 percent of applicants, Latinos 33 percent, and whites 29 percent.
The number of applications represents a 16.5 percent increase over the department’s 2015 recruitment drive, DNAinfo Chicago reported.
The police force is currently 48.5 percent white, 27.5 percent black, 20.7 percent Latino and 2.5 percent Asian, DNAinfo reported. The city’s population is 32.2 percent white, 31.5 percent black, 28.9 percent Latino, and 5.7 percent Asian.
Last year’s recruitment drive also attracted about 70 percent minority applicants, with blacks accounting for 29 percent and Latinos, 39 percent. In the department’s 2013 drive, 46 percent of applicants were white.
No Trump summit
An Ohio pastor said he “misspoke” when he told President Trump that he’d talked with Chicago gang leaders who wanted a “sit down” with the president to discuss how to “get that body count down,” Fox 32 reported. Rev. Darrell Scott said he had not in fact spoken with “top gang thugs” and blamed lack of sleep for his error.