Lisa Madigan op-ed: Mayor, don't do an end run on police reform
In December 2015, after the release of the video of Laquan McDonald's horrifying death, I requested that the U.S. Department of Justice conduct an independent investigation of the Chicago Police Department. The Justice Department found pervasive problems, including the unconstitutional use of deadly and excessive force by officers, and a lack of CPD resources, guidance, policies, training, supervision and accountability that have endangered citizens and police officers for decades.
With a new administration in the White House, the Justice Department has new leadership with distinctly different priorities.
The fact that the city is now negotiating police reforms with a Justice Department that fundamentally does not agree with the need for constitutional policing is ludicrous. And the city's apparent decision not to release the agreement until it is final is unacceptable.
If Mayor Rahm Emanuel is serious about police reform, he will understand that the call for accountability is not an affront to him or his leadership, but a process that is required because those of us who have lived in Chicago for our entire lives have been down this road too many times. We refuse to allow the city to take another shortcut that leads to a dead-end. The road to reform is long and bumpy, but it is the only route to a safer Chicago.
The only way Chicago can rebuild the broken trust between some of its citizens and the police is through a transparent reform process that includes community advocates who have pushed for reform for years.
The city must negotiate with stakeholders to reach an agreement, not announce one after its details have been decided behind closed doors.
Reforms must also be enforceable. The Department of Justice's report specifically called for a court-ordered consent decree requiring the reforms to be overseen by a federal judge. The city can agree to a federal court process that avoids the unnecessary expense of legal wrangling and instead focuses on getting to the right results.
Unconstitutional policing has never made us safer. Instead, Chicago is disgraced with the highest homicide rate in the country and a horrid history of police torture and brutality directed mainly against African-American and Latino communities.
It is an insult to police officers committed to reducing the violence in our city that they have not received the support they need to do their jobs properly and safely and that they often bear the brunt of public anger when city government deserves much of the blame.
For more than 50 years, the city has failed repeatedly to address police misconduct, with grave consequences, in particular, for communities of color. There has never been systemic and comprehensive police reform in Chicago because there has never been an enforceable court order requiring it.
This is an important moment. We must stop wasting lives, money and time. Chicago's leaders must commit at last to the difficult work of real police reform.