Chicago police reform is at stake. Where do we go from here? – Chicago Tribune
As Chicago grapples with crime that remains well above pre-pandemic levels and increasingly prevalent in every neighborhood of our city, it is important to reflect openly and honestly on the work being done to reform the Chicago Police Department because it is absolutely essential to making our city safer. .
Reform is complicated, to say the least, and people are rightly confused when public officials toss around phrases such as “75% overall compliance” while “fully complying with less than 5% of requirements of the decree” in the same sentence. It is even more distressing to hear some mayoral candidates insist that we should “let the police be the police,” which is code for opting out of reform.
Under the 2019 consent decree, which was negotiated between the City of Chicago and the Illinois Attorney General following the Laquan McDonald shooting, the reform is occurring in three stages:
- Rewrote department policy to align with national best practices.
- Police training on the revised policy.
- Operationalize best practices and modernize department operations.
Today, nearly three years after the executive order, the police department has made substantial progress in the first stage – reaching 72% compliance with policy requirements, according to the latest report from the independent monitor hired by the courts to oversee the progress of the department. At the second stage—training—the department is only 14.5% compliant requirements, according to the same report.
The CPD has not even started the third phase of compliance. And training took a big hit with the recent firing of Bob Boik, former executive director of the Office of Constitutional Policing and Reform, by Superintendent David Brown. As the Chicago Tribune reported, Boik was reportedly fired for raising concerns about Brown’s decision to move 46 police trainers to patrol.
Police reform is important because residents need to feel safe, wherever they live, free from violence and crime and abusive and unconstitutional policing practices. Reform does both. Effective policing in the 21st century requires officers to be properly trained to apply best law enforcement practices and to do so with the utmost respect and consideration for the constitutional rights of every citizen.
To achieve more effective constitutional policing, Los Angeles and New York eliminated overreliance on specialized units and built long-term relationships and trust with the community. Their crime rates have dropped.
Today, Chicago consistently has more homicides than New York and Los Angeles, even though the combined population of those cities is more than four times ours. Additionally, both cities have fewer police officers per capita than Chicago. Just adding more police, or even just filling vacancies, won’t make us any safer unless we start doing things differently.
Acting Superintendent Charlie Beck, who oversaw a major modernization of the Los Angeles Police Department before coming to Chicago, got the ball rolling during his brief tenure. Sadly, Beck’s bold changes have been largely undone and the CPD has reverted to the same outdated policing strategies that contributed to the breakdown in trust and efficiency and led to the consent decree in the first place. .
For example, the CPD brought back large, specialized units to saturate high-crime communities. Because specialized units are deployed throughout the city, officers don’t have the time or opportunity to build trusting relationships. Worse still, this approach often results in common civil rights violations such as “stop-and-frisk” or “pretext” traffic stops, in which cops stop people for no legal reason and then find a pretext to detain this individual. It is unconstitutional and that is precisely why we now have a consent decree.
The CPD also pursues strategies such as the long-term development of gang cases and narcotics conspiracies aimed at eliminating large organized criminal networks and seizing illegally acquired assets. These strategies might have worked 30 or 40 years ago, but today, Chicago police officers will tell you that gun violence is mostly block-by-block and tied to individual retaliation — not large criminal enterprises. Additionally, most members of the high-risk population have few assets to speak of.
Success also requires changing the way the department is run. For example, recent analysis shows that Chicago police are not consistently deployed to the most criminal locations. A separate analysis shows that the Neighborhood Patrol Division is short by about 1,300 officers. The ministry could mainly close this gap today simply by disbanding and reassigning specialized units. Instead, it extends shifts and cancels days off. The result is that the base is in crisis.
Finally, structural reform of the police includes consistency in supervision. When supervisors manage the same agents every day, they get to know their tendencies and can coach them and see the warning signs of stress. Ultimately, when police leaders know their team members, they can get the most out of them.
Now, more than ever, Chicago must redouble its efforts to operationalize lawful, respectful, and constitutional policing.
So far we haven’t. Are we ready?
Susan Lee is Chicago CRED’s Chief Strategy and Policy Officer. She previously served as Chicago’s deputy mayor for public safety during the Lightfoot administration.
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