More than 20 reforms are in the works for the Chicago Police Department (CPD) following a past of alleged unconstitutional use of force, especially against minority citizens. The recently approved consent decree means the department is under federal pressure to straighten out police-community relations.
The decree was approved by U.S. District Judge Robert M. Dow Jr. following both a federal and state investigation into CPD’s practices. In August 2017, former Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a lawsuit against the city of Chicago to implement constitutional policing practices.
Some of the changes outlined in the decree include officers having to report each time they point their gun at someone, public reporting on investigations of sexual misconduct cases involving officers and more crisis intervention training for officers.
The initial recommendation for a federal consent decree in Chicago happened during the Obama administration in 2015 following the shooting and death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in October 2014 by CPD officer Jason Van Dyke — who was convicted of second-degree murder for the shooting this past October. The decree hasn’t been implemented until now.
Following McDonald’s death, the U.S. Department of Justice investigated CPD and found probable cause the department was engaging in patterns of unconstitutional policing — especially in regards to use of force against minorities, according to Dr. Christopher Donner, an assistant professor in Loyola’s criminal justice and criminology department who teaches courses in policing and crime prevention.
Donner said he’s seen successful consent decrees in other cities — such as Los Angeles and Cincinnati — and trusts that these reforms will have an overall positive impact on the city.
“I definitely think they can help, like I said they, unfortunately, have had to been used in a number of different agencies in the last 20 or 30 years,” Donner said. “These consent decrees provide a good incentive if those jurisdictions didn’t already have a good incentive to fix their policing to try and better police-community relations.”
Alderman Joe Moore of the 49th Ward, Rogers Park, also pointed to the success of the same cities under consent decrees and said he believes the decree will have the same impact on CPD.
“If you look at what happened in other cities, we ended up having a more professional police department with lower numbers of civil rights claims brought against them, lower incidences of police misconduct, better community relations, and lower crime,” Moore said. “So I think this will ultimately be a good thing for Chicago.”
Moore announced policing changes to CPD in Rogers Park in October, including more high definition security cameras, mobile phones for officers with crime analysis software, license plate readers in police cars and a high-tech support center. They were implemented last week, The Phoenix reported.
Although Donner said he believes the consent decree will work for Chicago, he also pointed out potential issues that he said he thinks could arise once the reforms are actually implemented.
“There’s not a whole lot of evidence to suggest this would happen — but it could make it more likely that the police are going to be less proactive and they are going to have to spend the time documenting everything and filling out all that paperwork,” Donner said.
Donner added the city may also be forced to pay officers overtime so they are able to get all the proper paperwork in for things like stopping pedestrians and pointing their weapons.
CPD’s office of News Affairs didn’t respond when The Phoenix reached out for comment, including to the question of whether or not officers would be paid overtime to fill out the extra paperwork.
In a statement to The Phoenix, university spokesperson Evangeline Politis said on behalf of Director of Campus Safety Tom Murray Loyola Campus Safety monitors law enforcement changes, although the decree doesn’t directly apply to Campus Safety.
“As a professional law enforcement agency we are attentive to the ever changing landscape of American law enforcement,” the statement said. “Our agency is focused on the best ways to serve our constituency and prides itself on our commitment to the Loyola community.”
The majority of people stopped by Campus Safety officers for stop and frisks between 2016-2018 were minorities, The Phoenix reported. When asked whether campus safety has specific training to assure fair policing, as the consent decree outlines for CPD, Politis did not reply.
The university began requiring all Campus Safety officers to wear body cameras in August 2018 to improve transparency, although a university spokesperson told The Phoenix footage won’t be seen under most circumstances.
The office of the Illinois Attorney General could not be reached directly for comment.