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Aldermen criticize slow pace of Chicago police reform, want cops to answer for future moves

Aldermen on Tuesday criticized the Chicago Police Department’s slow movement toward reform and gave preliminary approval of a measure that would require police brass and other officials to answer for their future performance before City Council members.

Members of the council’s Committee on Public Safety voiced dissatisfaction during an online meeting that the city missed more than 70 percent of its deadlines in the first year under the consent decree, a broad court order calling for changes to the way the troubled police force treats people.

The ordinance would compel Police Superintendent David Brown or his staff, as well as other city officials, to go before the committee following future progress reports from the independent monitor overseeing reforms.

So far, those reports have painted a picture of a department struggling to meet its court-enforceable obligations to overhaul training, supervision and discipline. An attorney for Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul last month threatened court intervention if the city failed to promptly show a plan to catch up.

The ordinance could go before the full City Council as soon as next month.

Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson, 11th, noted that city officials had signed off on the 2019 court order.

“We agreed to this,” he said. “We can’t keep talking about how burdensome it is. We just have to do it.”

Police and city officials at the hearing pointed to a newly released 12-page plan to gain ground on reforms. The document lists dozens of priorities for the rest of the year, including training cops on impartial policing, improving use of force reporting and continuing work on a plan to tighten supervision.

Deputy Superintendent Barbara West told aldermen the department was adding personnel in areas of the force most responsible for enacting the court order.

“We want reform as well,” she said.

The committee’s action came amid heightened tensions between police and many Chicagoans that have been on display during more than two months of protests sparked by the death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer in late May. On Sunday, police shot a man in the Englewood neighborhood who allegedly had fired on them, touching off clashes with officers. Some downtown businesses were looted early Monday.

Grievances against the police will continue to be aired publicly, as Maggie Hickey, the former federal prosecutor tasked with overseeing the city’s progress toward reform, is scheduled to hold virtual listening sessions next week to hear allegations of police brutality and misconduct during the recent protests and unrest. Information on those sessions is available at Hickey’s team’s website.

The cops, meanwhile, have complained of violent agitators hijacking peaceful protests by throwing projectiles and injuring officers.

The consent decree is one of the most substantive consequences of the 2015 release of video of white Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting Black teenager Laquan McDonald 16 times. That spurred a U.S. Department of Justice investigation, which resulted in a January 2017 report that castigated the police as poorly trained, badly supervised and prone to excessive force. The report helped make way for the consent decree.

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