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The Lack Of Trust In Chicago Police Is 'Justified,' Rahm's Task Force Says

By Mae Rice in News on Apr 13, 2016 3:40PM

By Aaron Cynic/Chicagoist

In a new report to be released this week, Chicago's new Police Accountability Task Force calls for the city to abolish the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) and own up to systemic racism within the Chicago Police Department. The 18-page "executive summary" of the report, obtained by the Tribune, terms IPRA "badly broken," and straightforwardly states that "[t]he community's lack of trust in CPD is justified."

The police department also needs to make "a real commitment to Constitutional policing strategies," the report argues, in one shockingly disappointing sentence. According to the report, of everyone CPD arrested in 2014, only 3 out of every 1,000 had access to a lawyer while in police custody.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel established the Police Accountability Task Force in early December, in the same press conference where he announced that then-police chief Garry McCarthy was fired. (This was just days after the release of the Laquan McDonald video).

This is the first document the task force has released in the four months since then. It's written with flair, too. The report, published in full by the Tribune, begins: "A painful, but necessary reckoning is upon us."

Recently, the mayor replaced the head of IPRA in an effort to improve its credibility, but the task force isn't having it. They call for the end of IPRA ASAP, and a new process for investigating excessive force complaints.

While IPRA remains, they argue, "[c]ases go uninvestigated, the agency lacks resources and IPRA's findings raise troubling concerns about whether it is biased in favor of police officers." (Before the McDonald case IPRA, founded in 2007, had investigated hundreds of police shootings and ruled only two of them unjustified.) "Up until recently, the agency has been run by former law enforcement, who allowed leadership to reverse findings without creating any record of the changes."

The report likewise critiques the city's current deal with the police union for effectively institutionalizing a code of silence. Under the current police contract—which also puts a damper on IPRA's powers of investigation—police have 24 hours grace period after a shooting in which to prepare their stories. This window makes it easy (at least in theory) for officers to coordinate falsified testimony.

As far as systemic racism within the CPD, the report pushes the city to address it with improved police training. Because Chicago is a highly segregated city, the report argues, officer training must take into account that new officers might encounter other races for the first time at police academy, and teach them to tackle their biases (even unconscious ones) head on. As is, African-Americans are disproportionately affected by basically every element of policing, from stops to police shootings.

This racial bias against African-Americans is nothing new, the report argues. The McDonald case is just one of many that has prompted outcry from the black community (and everyone else). These cases date back to at least the 1960s, when Chicago police killed Black Panther Fred Hampton while he was sleeping.

Racist incidents have continued since the McDonald video release, too: Someone (or multiple someones) keep saying the n-word on police radio; the city has called for a hate crime investigation.