Chicago Police Department Overhaul To Continue, Mayor Says

Apr 5, 2017
Originally published on April 5, 2017 8:11 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Chicago was one of the cities set to overhaul its police department. This came after a scathing report from the U.S. Justice Department found the city's police engaged in a pattern of excessive force. Of course, that was under the Obama administration. President Trump's attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has ordered a new review, leaving federal involvement in that overhaul in question. Chicago's mayor's trying to stay on track though, as NPR's Cheryl Corley reports.

CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: The year-long investigation into Chicago police conduct by the Obama Justice Department was a response in part to widespread protests that came after the release of a video.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Sixteen shots and a cover-up. Sixteen shots and a cover-up.

CORLEY: It shows the 2014 death of Laquan McDonald, a 17-year-old African-American shot 16 times by a white police officer. Shortly before the release of the tape, the officer was charged with murder. In its report, the Justice Department found Chicago police systematically engaged in a pattern of excessive and deadly force and in racial discrimination. In January, Mayor Rahm Emanuel called the report sobering and said the city would negotiate an agreement with the Justice Department.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RAHM EMANUEL: The police department and the City of Chicago are going to make the necessary investments in training, technology, transparency because this is what the police officers need to do their job.

CORLEY: Attorney General Sessions says he's read a summary but not the entire report on Chicago police. The plan is not final. And whether there will be a federal consent decree now to enforce the Justice Department's recommendations for reforms is uncertain. Even so, Emanuel released a joint statement with the city's police chief, saying changes will be made anyway.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: Let me hear y'all say all power to the people.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: All power to the people.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: All power to the people.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: All power to the people.

CORLEY: At a street protest yesterday, Kofi Ademola with the Black Lives Matter Chicago movement said without a consent decree though, he doesn't expect much to change with the police.

KOFI ADEMOLA: As long as the mayor is investing more money into policing instead of into our communities, we're going to see more police violence.

CORLEY: The president of Chicago's Fraternal Order of Police met with the attorney general last week with other police union officials. Dean Angelo Sr. says he hopes his comments help spur the attorney general's order for a review of consent decrees.

DEAN ANGELO SR.: We are only looking for a fair and unbiased and apolitical examination of when we do hit the gray area.

CORLEY: Laquan Mcdonald's great uncle, Reverend Marvin Hunter, says the Justice Department's recommendations would help restore trust in Chicago's police department. He too is skeptical though about the city following through on changes without a federal court monitor.

MARVIN HUNTER: No, they would not because they haven't in the past. And Laquan McDonald is not the only tragedy that has happened in this city.

CORLEY: But Chicago's mayor and the police superintendent say, like officials in Baltimore who want to finalize a consent decree, they will go forward making police department changes regardless of any federal involvement. Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Chicago. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.