As many politically active Americans were settling in to watch the State of the Union address on Tuesday evening, a citizens board that works with the police department in Chicago instead listened to community concerns regarding police conduct in the city.
The Chicago Police Board held a special public meeting at Kennedy-King College, to hear residents' input on topics ranging from police killings, overuse of excessive force, and lack of transparency in the police department.
The board is looking at police superintendent candidates that it will recommend to Mayor Rahm Emanuel and sought to give the public an opportunity to express their views on the selection process. The candidate will fill the position Garry McCarthy held until he was fired last month following the public release of a video of police gunning down Laquan McDonald, a black teenager who was holding a knife, in October of 2014.
"I think the next superintendent should be most of all honest and not subjugated to the mayor," said Danny Jones, who identified himself as a pastor. "You guys are sitting here on the board and are going to recommend a superintendent to the mayor of Chicago, but he has the final say. And that's a problem because that guy, I consider him the most honest crooked mayor we've ever had in the city."
The meeting marked the first time the police department has held a meeting to hear the community concerns over police conduct in the city, according to WMAQ-TV. Mayor Emanuel has recently come under scrutiny over police misconduct and is introducing new measures to curb the deaths of predominantly African-American men at the hand of police officers. Last December, he rolled out a new plan that will include using Tasers and training police officers to deescalate confrontations and make them “more conversational."
But experts say that Tasers have their limitations.
The Chicago Tribune reported that the “city statistics show that when the department expanded use of [tasers] in 2010, that did not lead to an immediate drop in police shootings. The devices have resulted in community relations problems of their own, spawning allegations in Chicago and elsewhere that police shocked civilians without justification.”
More people are calling for proper police training and, although the Mayor included it in his new plan, it is unclear what the training will entail.
“The new superintendent will have to come prepared with an effective plan to train and address issues of subconscious racism and bias and overuse of excessive force," said Dorothy Brown, the Cook County clerk of the Circuit Court.
"They kill and get away with it,” resident Jack Sullivan said. “It's swept under the table.... If you want to be superintendent, walk in Englewood with me.
Most of the speakers said that they want a black superintendent, who will be able to better understand the needs of the community.
Chicago Police Board president Lori Lightfoot said that they will weigh the concerns of the community and recommend the best candidate to the mayor. The board has until January 15 to forward its recommendation, and the position is expected to be filled by the end of February.