“The status quo has failed. We have to move forward.”
At a press conference this afternoon, Chicago mayoral candidate and former Police Board President Lori Lightfoot commended Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Superintendent Eddie Johnson’s progress on the consent decree, but also called on the Emanuel administration to incorporate extensive, specific changes during the public comment period to strengthen the agreement and ensure true accountability and reform of the Chicago Police Department. The press conference was held at the Union League Club of Chicago and streamed live on Facebook.
“The consent decree process is a critical step on the road to reform,” said Lightfoot. “I thank and commend Attorney General Lisa Madigan for stepping into the void that the Department of Justice created by refusing to address systemic problems in the Chicago Police Department and police departments across the country. The Trump administration’s DOJ has abdicated their responsibilities, but thanks to Attorney General Madigan’s leadership, we can and will move forward.
“I have spent significant time going through the draft consent decree. Portions of the draft are important and potentially transformative if fully implemented. However, regarding other elements of the draft, I have serious concerns. I hope that, through public dialogue, the Emanuel administration will resolve these issues before the decree is presented to Judge Robert Dow for consideration.”
At the press conference, Lightfoot highlighted three key areas of concern: specific policies, accountability measures, and the public comment period. Policy concerns included foot pursuits, chokeholds, and use of deadly force.
The policy on foot pursuits in paragraph 162 of the consent decree draft states that by January 1, 2021, the monitor should assess CPD foot pursuit policy data and, if the monitor recommends adopting policy, CPD will adopt it.
“Chicagoans cannot wait until 2021: the Department of Justice specifically said in its report that CPD needs robust policy and training on foot pursuits, and we don’t have to look any further than the disturbing video released last week of Maurice Granton—who ran away and discarded his gun before an officer shot him in the back—to understand the urgency of this policy.
Lightfoot also voiced concern regarding the policy on chokeholds in paragraph 168 of the draft, which states that officers are only prohibited from using chokeholds if there is an intent to reduce the intake of air or put pressure on a person’s airway.
“This standard of intent is untenable—under this policy, an officer would simply deny an intention to cause harm after using a chokehold. CPD must be prohibited from using chokeholds, full stop.”
Lightfoot noted her concern with the portion of the policy on the use of deadly force in paragraph 172 of the draft decree.
“The policy states that officers should consider their surroundings and take reasonable precautions but, as we know from the tragic death of Bettie Jones, this is not strong enough,” said Lightfoot, noting the shooting death by Officer Robert Rialmo in 2015. “The CPD general order already has a much more robust policy that prohibits shooting into crowds. The parties should apply the CPD general order policy instead of the version in the draft decree.”
Lightfoot also noted that the decree includes many policies that are already in place, including use of force policies.
“The Emanuel administration could rush to declare substantial compliance because the decree, in many instances, calls for policies that already exist. Documentation of existing policies is not nearly enough—what needs to happen is an assessment and evaluation of how those policies play out in practice.”
Additionally, Lightfoot described how the consent decree does not adequately discuss several key policies, including civilian oversight of the police; a plan to address settlements, judgments, and lawsuits; and specific metrics through which the monitor can audit the homicide clearance rate.
Lightfoot also highlighted concerns with accountability mechanisms in the consent decree. These include the need to define how the public safety inspector general builds capacity and interacts with the monitor, a lack of clarity in the section regarding supervisor investigations that has the potential to impede the work of COPA, and vague terms throughout the document.
“There are a number of instances of vague, undefined, and ambiguous terms,” said Lightfoot. “These include ‘reliable and fair’ regarding testing in paragraph 269; ‘sufficient’ in paragraph 278 and throughout the document; ‘adequate in quality, quantity, type, and scope’ in paragraph 87 and throughout; and ‘material progress’ regarding crisis intervention training in paragraph 103.
“The document does not define what these terms mean in context, or who—perhaps the monitor or the parties—decides if these standards have been met. We need much more clarity around the use of these terms to make it explicit that the monitor alone determines compliance.”
Additionally, Lightfoot called for an expansion of the public comment period from 21 to 45 days.
“The parties must expand the public comment period from 21 to 45 days and explain on the website how public comments will be incorporated,” said Lightfoot. “Chicagoans need time to make sure the Emanuel administration and the Attorney General hear their concerns loud and clear.”
Lightfoot also commended several aspects of the consent decree, including substantive improvements to crisis intervention training, additional resources for officer wellness, and the inclusion of a monitor and court oversight.