The Chicago Police Department is failing to hold officers accountable and not doing enough to combat a “justified” lack of trust from the community, according to a sweeping report released Wednesday by a task force assembled by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
The task force’s report was unsparing when it came to the department’s problems with race, saying that its members “heard over and over again from a range of voices” who feel that the Chicago police are racist.
In the 22-page report, the task force pointed to data from the Chicago police that it said “gives validity to the widely held belief the police have no regard for the sanctity of life when it comes to people of color.”
The task force looked at more than 400 shootings between 2008 and 2015 and found that about three-quarters of the people wounded or killed in police shootings were black. Hispanic people accounted for 14 percent of those shot, while white people made up 8 percent of them.
“Residents of Chicago spoke of random police stops in which they are treated with disdain, and fearful that any interaction with police could lead to violence against them,” Victor Dickson, member of the task force and head of a nonprofit that helps people with criminal records, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, our research supports those perceptions.”
Similar proportions were found among people hit with Tasers in recent years. Census data show that black, Hispanic and white people make up nearly equal slices of the city’s population.
“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,” the report stated. “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.”
Before the report was released, Emanuel (D) said he would be open to any recommendations from the group, including the suggestion that authorities dismantle the agency responding to allegations of police misconduct.
“I don’t really think you need a task force to know we have racism in America, we have racism in Illinois or that there is racism that exists in the city of Chicago and obviously can be in our departments,” Emanuel said, according to the Chicago Tribune. “The question isn’t, ‘Do we have racism?’ We do. The question is, ‘what are you going to do about it?'”
The task force’s report went on to say that some people in the community “do not feel safe in any encounter with the police.”
This task force was announced as protests gripped Chicago after graphic footage of a police officer shooting a teenager was released. Since that video emerged in November, the Justice Department announced a federal probe of the country’s second-largest local police force, which has also struggled with what officials described as morale problems.
In the report, the task force examined street stops conducted over one period — the summer of 2014 — and found that more than 70 percent of the people stopped were black. A look at traffic stops over the previous year showed that stops were almost twice as likely to involve black people as Hispanics or white drivers.
The task force also said that black and Hispanic drivers were searched about four times as often as white drivers, even though police data showed that officers found contraband about twice as often on white drivers.
The report also described a “broken” system of accountability for the police force, one where oversight is “plagued by serious structural and procedural flaws that make real accountability nearly impossible.”
According to this report, 40 percent of complaints submitted over the last five years to the independent police review board or the department’s internal affairs bureau were not investigated. And when discipline was handed down, the report said, it was reduced or eliminated three-quarters of the time.
“Overall, we found that good police are not supported or rewarded, while too many bad police are given a pass,” Lori E. Lightfoot, president of the Chicago Police Board and chair of the task force, said in a statement. “Red flags about officers heading down the wrong path are not quickly and aggressively addressed, as they should be.”
A spokesman for the department did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the report.
The task force’s members recommend giving the community a role in police oversight, expanding community policing, providing more body cameras and improving transparency with the public. The group also called for a dedicated inspector general to audit and monitor the department as well as a new civilian group to deal with complaints about police misconduct.
“Reform is possible if there is a will and a commitment,” the report’s conclusion state.s “But where reform must begin is with an acknowledgement of the sad history and present conditions that have left the people totally alienated from the police, and afraid for their physical and emotional safety.”
Emanuel had called for the task force in December when he also revealed that he had asked Garry F. McCarthy, his police superintendent, to step down. That came after heated demonstrations followed the release of a video showing Jason Van Dyke, one of the city’s police officers, firing more than a dozen bullets at 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.
When he announced the task force, Emanuel described it as needed to improve independent oversight of the department as well as how authorities respond when there are complaints against officers.
Not long before the report was released Wednesday, Eddie Johnson — the Chicago department’s former chief of patrol — was approved as the city’s new police superintendent, the third person to hold that position since the McDonald video was made public in November.
After Emanuel named Johnson as interim superintendent last month, the department said in a statement that it was “re-energized” to focus on fighting violence, improving morale inside the department and restoring residents’ trust in the police force.
Police in Chicago are facing bloodshed and violence at levels unseen for years. In the first quarter of this year, killings and shootings both spiked from the same time last year. Chicago is on track to have more than 500 killings in 2016, which would make it just the third year since 2004 to top that threshold.
The task force’s report also comes less than two days after a Chicago police officer shot and killed a black teenager who authorities said pointed a gun at the officer after a brief chase.
Local media reports identified the teenager as 16-year-old Pierre Loury. The Cook County Medical Examiner’s office said Wednesday that Loury died from a gunshot wound to the chest and that his death was ruled a homicide.
Loury’s death has prompted protests in the city. Police said they arrested two people — a 33-year-old man and a 17-year-old woman — during a protest on Tuesday night.
Officials said that demonstrators began climbing atop police cars at a station and that the 17-year-old was jumping on one of the vehicles. According to police, as they tried to move her off of the squad car, Shimron Robinson of Blue Island, Illinois, came up behind an officer and knocked an officer to the ground. Both were taken into custody.
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Mark Berman