Can Chicago's police force gain back community trust?

A leaked draft of a report from Chicago's Task Force on Police Accountability found that the city's police department has a broken trust with Chicago citizens and should work to repair its problems with racism, accountability, and more.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times Media/AP
Eddie Johnson speaks to the media after Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that he was appointed the interim superintendent of the Chicago Police Department at CPD Headquarters in March.

A task force established by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to review the city's police department found that the law enforcement agency must acknowledge racial biases and change the way it handles officer discipline, community relations, and more.

The Police Accountability Task Force, created by Mr. Emanuel in the wake of the shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by a Chicago police officer in 2014, was expected to release the results of its independent review of the Chicago Police Department later this week to the mayor. The Chicago Tribune obtained a copy of a draft of the executive summary of the report ahead of its impending release.

The chairwoman of the task force, Lori Lightfoot, reportedly said that she was disappointed that "incomplete accounts" of the summary were made public ahead of the group's presentation of its findings to Emanuel. She also said "full and accurate information on their finding and recommendations" will come out Wednesday, according to The Associated Press.

Kelley Quinn, a spokeswoman for Emanuel, confirmed to the AP that the task force is still set to brief the mayor on its full set of recommendations Wednesday.

"The task force spent more than four months developing recommendations on an issue that is critical to the people of Chicago, and those recommendations deserve more than a cursory review of an early incomplete draft summary," she said.

The report's release also comes as the city council is considering altering Chicago code to allow Emanuel to appoint current Interim Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson as the CPD’s next superintendent without going through the city’s police board. That issue is set to be voted on Wednesday.

"We don't have time to play," Alderman Walter Burnett Jr. said Tuesday, according to the AP. "People are dying in our wards."

According to the executive summary draft, the task force focused on addressing the city police department's community relations, legal accountability, personnel intervention, use of force policies, and video release policies during its survey of Chicago law enforcement.

One of the task force's key findings was that, throughout various communities in the city, there is a perception that "CPD officers are racist, have no respect for the lives and experiences of people of color and approach every encounter with people of color as if the person, regardless of age, gender or circumstance, is a criminal."

The group noted that these sentiments are not new, with high-profile race-related incidents stretching back to the 1960s, marking "a long, sad history of death, false imprisonment, physical and verbal abuse and general discontent about police actions in neighborhoods of color." It also found that 74 percent of those fatally shot by police between 2008 and 2015 were black, despite the city's relatively even racial distribution between whites, blacks, and Hispanics. The disproportionate trend continued across taser shootings and traffic or street stops.

The summary also highlights problems with the police force's recruiting and training practices, and concludes that "The community's lack of trust in CPD is justified," based on racial bias and failure to properly interact with citizens, and that "Chicago's police accountability system is broken."

The task force's final recommendations include solutions ranging from more integrated community involvement to officer training and the creation of new review authorities, and more. Its full list of recommendations will be released in the full report.

"Reform is possible if there is a will and a commitment," the summary stated, adding that there must be an acknowledgement of the "sad history and present conditions which have left the people totally alienated from the police, and afraid for their physical and emotional safety."

"I haven't had the chance to review the report, but I do welcome the recommendations, and I will take a hard look at all of them," Mr. Johnson told the Chicago Tribune.

Police union President Dean Angelo told the Tribune that he is "very concerned about that type of language" used in the report.

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