Systemic Racism Found to Run Through Chicago Police Department

Thursday, April 14, 2016
(photo: Black Youth Project)




By Monica Davey and Mitch Smith, New York Times


CHICAGO — Racism has contributed to a long, systemic pattern of institutional failures by this city’s police department in which police officers have mistreated people, operated without sufficient oversight, and lost the trust of residents, a task force assigned by Mayor Rahm Emanuel has found.


The report, issued Wednesday, was blistering, blunt and backed up by devastating statistics. Coincidentally, it was released as city leaders were installing a new, permanent superintendent for the Chicago Police Department.


“The community’s lack of trust in CPD is justified,” the task force wrote. “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.”


The report gives validation to complaints made for years by African-American residents here who have said they were unfairly targeted by officers without justification on a regular basis. It raises the pressure on Emanuel and other Chicago leaders to make significant changes at a pivotal time for the nation’s second largest municipal police force, which has been under intense fire from residents and under scrutiny from federal authorities. It includes more than 100 recommendations for change.


The task force amassed data that shows the extent to which African-Americans appear to have been targeted. In a city where whites, blacks and Hispanics each make up about one-third of the population, 74 percent of the 404 people shot by Chicago police between 2008 and 2015 were black, the report said. Black people were targeted in 72 percent of thousands of investigative street stops that did not lead to arrests during a recent summer.


Three out of four — 76 percent — of people on whom Chicago police officers used Taser stun guns between 2012 and 2015 were black. And black people made up 46 percent of police traffic stops in 2013.


“CPD’s own data gives validity to the widely held belief the police have no regard for the sanctity of life when it comes to people of color,” according to the report, a draft summary of which was first reported in The Chicago Tribune on Tuesday afternoon. “Stopped without justification, verbally and physically abused, and in some instances arrested, and then detained without counsel — that is what we heard about over and over again,” the task force wrote.


The stinging findings come at a particularly troublesome time here, as violent crimes have increased this year and as police morale is reported to have sunk.


The task force was given its assignment late last year, after the release of a graphic dashcam video showing a white Chicago police officer, Jason Van Dyke, fatally shooting a black teenager, Laquan McDonald, along a Chicago street. Widespread protests followed, and Emanuel fired the city’s police superintendent, who was officially replaced Wednesday by Eddie Johnson, a longtime officer who is black. The Justice Department has since announced an investigation into the department’s patterns and practices, which is still underway.


The task force members — chosen by Emanuel — were racially diverse, with professional backgrounds in social work, law and government. Lori Lightfoot, the president of the Chicago Police Board, was chairwoman of the group, and the panel was advised by Deval Patrick, the former Massachusetts governor who spent part of his childhood in Chicago.


The other members were Randolph Stone, a clinical professor of law at the University of Chicago; Sergio E. Acosta, a former federal prosecutor; Victor Dickson, who leads an organization that helps former inmates; Joseph Ferguson, Chicago’s inspector general; Maurice Classen, a former prosecutor; Alexa James, a licensed clinical social worker; and Sybil Madison-Boyd, a psychologist who works with urban youth.


On Wednesday, before the report was released, Emanuel said he had not yet seen it, but that his “general attitude” was to be “open to look at everything they say.”


Emanuel said he was not surprised by the suggestion of racism, and that he wanted to work through those issues.


“I don’t really think you need a task force to know that we have racism in America, we have racism in Illinois or that there’s racism that exists in the city of Chicago and obviously could be in our department,” Emanuel said.


He added: “The question is: ‘what are we going to do to confront it and make the changes in not only personnel but in policies to reflect, I think, the values that make up the diversity of our city.'”


To Learn More:

Recommendations for Reform: Restoring Trust between the Chicago Police and the Communities they Serve (Police Accountability Task Force)

7,000 People Covertly Swept Up Into Secret Chicago Police Interrogation Center (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Steve Straehley, AllGov)

Chicago Police Accused of Running Secret Interrogation Center (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Chicago Woman Spent 675 Days in Jail for a Street Murder She Couldn’t have Committed…Because She was in Jail that Day (by Steve Straehley, AllGov)

Court Rules against Chicago Police Code of Silence (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Chicagoland Police Hit with Torture and Forced Confession Lawsuits (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)


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