Chicago Police Department Task Force Report
I got up early this morning to read yesterday’s Police Accountability Task Force report, or at least its Executive Summary, which reports on the Chicago Police Department. It’s really easy to read and chock full of important information and graphics. Here are a few.
Finally, I wanted to excerpt from “Other Key Findings” section:
The community’s lack of trust in CPD is justified. There is substantial evidence that people of color— particuarly African-Americans—have had disproportionately negative experiences with the police over an extended period of time. There is also substantial evidence that these experiences continue today through significant disparate impacts associated with the use of force, foot and traffic stops and bias in the police oversight system itself.
CPD is not doing enough to combat racial bias. Policies need further clarification, as it is not clear whether and when officers may use race as a factor when initiating stops. While CPD collects a fair amount of data, little is reported to the public. CPD still has significant work to do to diversify its ranks, especially at supervisory levels. And more needs to be done to train officers to acknowledge and address their biases and deploy officers who are culturally competent and have a proper understanding of the communities they are assigned to serve.
Historically, CPD has relied on the Community Alternative Policing Strategy (“CAPS”) to fulfill its community-policing function. The CAPS brand is significantly damaged after years of neglect. Ultimately, community policing cannot be relegated to a small, underfunded program; it must be treated as a core philosophy infused throughout CPD.
CPD officers are not adequately equipped to engage with youth. The existing relationship between CPD and youth—particularly youth of color—is antagonistic, to say the least. Children in some areas of the City are not only being raised in high-crime environments, but they are also being mistreated by those who have sworn to protect and serve them.
Finally, CPD is not doing enough to protect human and civil rights. Providing arrestees access to counsel is a particular problem. In 2014, only 3 out of every 1,000 arrestees had an attorney at any point while in police custody. In 2015, that number “doubled” to 6. The City’s youth are particularly vulnerable and often lack awareness of their rights.
LEGAL OVERSIGHT & ACCOUNTABILITY
Chicago’s police accountability system is broken. The system is supposed to hold police officers accountable to the people they serve and protect by identifying potential misconduct, investigating it and, when appropriate, imposing discipline. But at every step of the way, the police oversight system is riddled with legal and practical barriers to accountability.
IPRA is badly broken. Almost since its inception, there have been questions about whether the agency performed its work fairly, competently, with rigor and independence. The answer is no. Cases go uninvestigated, the agency lacks resources and IPRA’s findings raise troubling concerns about whether it is biased in favor of police officers. Up until recently, the agency has been run by former law enforcement, who allowed leadership to reverse findings without creating any record of the changes. IPRA has lost the trust of the community, which it cannot function without.
Imposing discipline on officers guilty of misconduct has also been a challenge. Existing policies and the woefully inadequate oversight regarding how discipline is imposed have allowed far too many officers to receive little or no discipline even after a complaint is sustained. Discipline is not handed down evenly, and there are several layers in the process where discipline is often reduced.
The collective bargaining agreements between the police unions and the City have essentially turned the code of silence into official policy. The CBAs discourage reporting misconduct by requiring affidavits, prohibiting anonymous complaints and requiring that accused officers be given the complainant’s name early in the process. Once a complaint is in the system, the CBAs make it easy for officers to lie if they are so inclined —they can wait 24 hours before providing a statement after a shooting, allowing them to confer with other officers, and they can amend statements after viewing video or audio evidence. In many cases, the CBAs also require the City to ignore or even destroy evidence of misconduct after a certain number of years.
The community has long been shut out of Chicago’s police oversight system. Meaningful engagement with the community—and giving the community power in the oversight system—is critical to ensuring that officers are held accountable for misconduct.
Finally, in the current system, there is no entity to police the police oversight system itself. There is no way to know if existing entities are performing their jobs with rigor and integrity, and no entity is equipped to identify and address systemic changes regarding patterns and practices of misconduct or bias, or to analyze policies and procedures to prevent future problems. Police inspectors general—often called auditors—have emerged nationally in response to a growing belief that traditional oversight agencies would benefit from having a second set of eyes to ensure that they perform as they should.