Chicago PD is making significant progress on reform, but challenges remain

By Madeline Buckley
Chicago Grandstand

CHICAGO — The Chicago Police Department has improved its training processes for officers and “devoted close attention” to its foot pursuit policy, but it also faces significant challenges with community engagement and confidence-building, according to a report on the department’s progress toward judicial decision-making. ordered reforms.

The semi-annual report published on Tuesday offered an overview of the CPD’s ongoing reform efforts – finding that the department had achieved some level of compliance in more than 70% of the provisions reviewed, but also noting the challenges the department continues to face. The report assesses CPD’s compliance with the Consent Decree during the second half of 2021.

In an unusual move, Maggie Hickey, the former federal prosecutor who is the court-appointed independent monitor, attached a letter to the report nodding to the “major changes” instituted by the CPD under the direction of the consent decree. , but also described the outgoing issues plaguing the department as it struggles to comply with the consent decree.

Evidence markers are seen on the ground as Chicago police process a crime scene.

Evidence markers are seen on the ground as Chicago police process a crime scene. (Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune)

“Constitutional and effective policing and consent decree requires more than just a checklist: the CPD and other relevant city entities must become learning organizations, able to identify new and existing challenges and implement corresponding solutions,” Hickey wrote.

The Chicago Police Department has been under a blanket consent decree since 2019, after a U.S. Justice Department investigation into the department following the killing of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by the former police officer. Chicago police Jason Van Dyke.

In the letter, Hickey said the CPD must “significantly improve and demonstrate its commitment” to community engagement as well as data collection, analysis and management.

She also linked reform efforts to crime reduction, writing that the two should work hand in hand. Shootings in Chicago remained high last year, during the period assessed in the report, after beginning to increase in 2020.

“Some resistance to police reform has come from those who believe that crime reduction is separate, if not opposed, to reform efforts,” she wrote.

Regarding the report, he overall highlighted policing and community engagement as areas in need of particular improvement, stating, “CPD’s community engagement efforts continue to frustrate community members in Chicago.”

Reflecting on the reforms during a briefing ahead of the report’s release, Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown noted the department has challenges ahead in community policing, but said the CPD continues to make progress. in the long process of compliance with the degree of consent.

“We definitely have a sense of urgency around building trust and community engagement,” Brown said.

Among the challenges described in the report: CPD solicits community input on its policies late in the process, depriving people of the opportunity to provide input during the plan formation phase. Its community policing office is also understaffed, and the department has two different vehicles for community policing, Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (also known as CAPS) along with its Neighborhood Policing Initiative (also known as NPI).

The monitoring team wrote that, despite asking for clarification for two years, it is still unclear how the DPC will merge the two initiatives.

“We continue to be concerned about how CPD understands and discerns the differences and nuances between community engagement, community partnerships, community relations, community policing and community service,” the report says.

The report also criticized the department’s recent focus on generating at least 1.5 million “positive community interactions”. The effort, first reported by the Chicago Sun-Times, was intended to build trust in the community, but the independent monitoring team wrote that it “may ultimately undermine” that goal.

Although such interactions play a role in building trust among Chicagoans, the CPD “appears to overestimate them,” according to the report.

The department also appears to be looking for quantity over quality, according to the report. It doesn’t have a clear definition of what constitutes positive community interaction or a solid way to track and maintain data quality control.

“The CPD is at serious risk of increasing negative interactions, damaging public trust and undermining its ability to ensure that it provides constitutional and effective policing,” the report said.

Among other areas where DPC needs improvement, the report notes that the Office of Internal Affairs, which investigates misconduct in the department, has lagged behind the progress of other departments.

Still, the department has made progress in areas such as training, where it “significantly improved the resources allocated” to certain trainings, although the report says the department still struggles to effectively track attendance.

Additionally, in response to community feedback, the department began requiring officers to intervene physically — rather than simply verbally — when they witness excessive force, the report said.

CPD officials have always maintained that complying with the consent decree is a long process that proceeds in stages.

The ministry’s 70% compliance rate marks an increase from the last monitoring period, which reached just over 50%.

“This is…real and meaningful progress,” Brown said.

During the first half of 2021, the department was found to be at least partially compliant with approximately 52% of the provisions assessed during this monitoring period. The DPC also met 26 of the 51 agreed deadlines.

In this report, the Independent Observer highlighted concerns about the department’s progress toward implementing a foot pursuit policy following the shooting death of Adam Toledo in March 2021. The report states that the police department, although it has an interim policy, missed the deadline to formulate the new policy.

The report also said the department’s foot chase data was likely inaccurate.

Offering an update on foot pursuit issues, Robert Boik, executive director of Constitutional Policing and Reform at the Chicago Police Department, told reporters that the department will implement a foot pursuit policy. at some point this year.” He also said the department is working on data inaccuracies and will have a form for officers to fill out that will help with data collection.

In March, a federal judge granted the CPD a three-year extension to comply with the consent decree, giving the department a total of eight years to comply with all court-ordered reforms.

“To get it right and really bring about the change that the community expects from the police department and has demanded from the police department, it takes time to get there,” Boik said.

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