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Chicago police reforms: What's covered – and what's not

Chicago's Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced police department reforms Thursday, just one week after a police accountability task force submitted its recommendations.

Charles Rex Arbogast/AP Photo/File
Protesters yell at Chicago Police officers at a bicycle barricade in Chicago in 2015. A day after a task force blasted the Chicago Police Department for decades of discrimination, on April 13 city and law enforcement officials weighed which of the panel's recommendations could be adopted and how much they might cost.

Chicago’s new police Superintendent Eddie Johnson and Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the Chicago police force’s new “down payment on the road to reform” Thursday.

A police accountability task force submitted recommendations on April 13. Among the several problems identified in the report are issues of alienation of the African-American and Hispanic communities in Chicago. Investigators say that members of these groups have suffered from police department policies of excessive force and a code of silence.

"Within 4-1/2 work days of getting the report, the city is implementing about a third of their recommendations," Mayor Emanuel told the Chicago Tribune. "Some are about training, some are about new technology, some are about accountability, some are about discipline, but they are all built toward what I think are the building blocks of better trust and cooperation between the police department and the community.”

The changes include plans for reforms that will allow the police department to better investigate allegations of misconduct and expand officer training.

In response to criticism of the Independent Police Review Authority declared "badly broken" by the task force, the mayor announced a series of reforms aimed at addressing lapses in police oversight. The reforms include "a new Public Safety Auditor, a role for citizen oversight, and increased transparency and independence for the entire system," according to a press release.

Despite ongoing racial tensions in the city, the reforms do not include the immediate creation of a deputy chief of diversity or a community oversight board for the Police Department.

"It sounds like there are some steps that are being taken to address some of the recommendations and findings, which is a good thing," said Lori Lightfoot, the leader of the task force, in the Chicago Tribune. "But there is obviously much more that can be done."

Emanuel told the Chicago Sun Times that the reason the city was moving comparatively slowly on some of the reforms, including reforms to the IPRA, was that it wants things done right.

“I don’t want to just move furniture around,” said Emanuel.

Instead, Emanuel is giving the IPRA’s new boss, Sharon Fairley, a chance to restore credibility in the distrusted group.

There have been calls for wide reaching reforms in the Chicago Police Department for years, after multiple police shootings and accusations of racism.

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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