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Rahm Emanuel, Lisa Madigan agree on proposed court order to overhaul Chicago Police Department

Chicago Tribune

Thursday, September 13, 2018  |  Article  |  Dan Hinkel

Attorney General (6) , Chicago Mayor (16) , Police (28)

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan have finalized a proposed court order intended to bring sweeping change to the Chicago Police Department.


The proposal marks a milestone in a police reform process sparked nearly three years ago by video of the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald, and the document’s introduction came at the end of jury selection for the murder trial of the officer who shot him 16 times, Jason Van Dyke.


Emanuel, Madigan and police Superintendent Eddie Johnson held a news conference Thursday morning to announce the completion of the proposed consent decree, a judicially enforceable order likely to govern the police force for years to come.


Both Emanuel and Madigan referenced the city’s lengthy history of scandal and failed attempts at lasting reform, and both vowed that this effort would be different, in part because it will be overseen by a federal judge.


“This agreement builds on the reforms we’ve already made and creates an enforceable, durable and sustainable framework for systemic changes to the Chicago Police Department,” Emanuel said.


The document, 236 pages long, was filed in federal court. A draft of the order released in July called for wide-ranging changes to training, supervision and discipline, among other areas.


The process of reaching a final consent decree will continue. District Judge Robert Dow Jr. plans to hold hearings on the proposed order in late October, and the judge can make changes before entering the decree.


Major questions about the decree remain unanswered, including who will be tapped to monitor the department’s progress and report to the judge. The draft called for a lead monitor and a monitoring team with broad access to department facilities and personnel, a typical arrangement in police forces undergoing judicially mandated reform.


The push for a consent decree stems from Van Dyke’s 2014 shooting of McDonald. In late 2015, a judge forced the release of video of the shooting that showed the white officer emptying his magazine into the black 17-year-old, who was carrying a knife. The video touched off heated street protests fueled by long-held anger among African-Americans about their treatment by police.


Emanuel and Madigan announced the proposed order as lawyers prepared for Van Dyke’s imminent trial on murder charges in Cook County court. The officer’s attorneys are expected to argue self-defense.


The consent decree would influence policing in Chicago for years, even as the officials who crafted it bow out. Neither Emanuel nor Madigan is seeking re-election.


“This consent decree will fundamentally change CPD,” Emanuel said Thursday, while cautioning that it will take time to make substantive changes to a department of some 13,500 sworn officers.


“It’s important to recognize that we will not meet all of our goals overnight,” he said.


After the McDonald video was released nearly three years ago, Emanuel resisted calls for an investigation into the police force by the U.S. Department of Justice but then embraced the idea as other officials endorsed it. In January 2017, the Justice Department investigation resulted in a damning report describing Chicago’s police as needlessly violent, badly trained and rarely disciplined.


In the last days of the Obama administration, Emanuel agreed to pursue a consent decree. But President Donald Trump’s Justice Department has shown little appetite for intervening in local police forces, and Emanuel sought to reach an out-of-court deal with the new administration. Activists and politicians, including Madigan, castigated the proposal, saying a deal without a judge’s supervision was unlikely to lead to lasting reform.


In August 2017, Madigan sued the Emanuel administration to force a consent decree, and the mayor agreed to work toward reforms overseen by the courts. Other groups, including Black Lives Matter Chicago and the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, also sued, and City Hall and Madigan’s office reached an agreement giving those groups a role in guiding the eventual consent decree.

Lawyers for those groups have criticized the draft agreement and continue to try to influence the final product. After the draft decree was released in July, Madigan’s office took in some 1,700 public comments.


Late in the process, Emanuel and Madigan’s lawyers remained stuck on one issue — whether or not cops would have to document instances when they point their guns at people.


They resolved that impasse last week, announcing a deal under which officers would have to inform dispatchers by radio after aiming a gun at someone. Cops would not have to fill out a use-of-force report, as they do when they use a Taser or fire a gun, but supervisors would have to review the gun-pointing incident and it would be recorded in city data. The department also would have to develop training on when to point a weapon.