Since the Chicago Police Department’s release in November 2015 of the dash-cam video of Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke firing 16 shots at Laquan McDonald, aldermen have introduced close to a dozen police reform ordinances. None of those items will get a hearing anytime soon, City Council Public Safety Chairman Ariel Reboyras told Aldertrack yesterday, explaining that he and the Mayor’s Office have chosen to keep those reforms on the backburner while the department undergoes a federal probe into its practices and use of force procedures.
“We’re looking at those right now,” Ald. Reboyras said of the ordinances calling for changes to police training, a mandate that all officers be equipped with and properly trained on the use of tasers, and the abolition of the agency in charge of handling cases of police misconduct. “We’re not going to put them out right away. What I’m hoping to do is see what more direction we get from the Department of Justice.”
Reboyras’ remarks came on the same day that Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that he would begin implementing “nearly a third” of the reforms suggested in a 190-page report on police accountability from a task force he assembled following the public outcry of the McDonald video.
“The City has begun discussions with the United State Department of Justice (DOJ) on the Task Force’s recommendations in this area and will continue to consult with DOJ as we develop a strategic plan to accomplish these goals and create a robust, effective police discipline system,” the Mayor’s Office said in a press release.
To ensure “successful implementation of the reforms” the Mayor outlined, the city will issue quarterly, written progress reports to the public. Asked if the City Council plans to hold hearings on those updates, similar to how the Council’s Housing Committee holds regular meetings on the Department of Planning and Development’s progress on annual affordable housing goals, Ald. Reboyras said he’s open to the idea.
And among those “immediate reforms” Mayor Emanuel announced yesterday is a list of changes for the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), an agency that the task force described as “badly broken”, and that one alderman, Leslie Hairston (5), wants to abolish.
“We’re not going to dissolve them right now. We’re not going to address that ordinance right now, until we get input from the Department of Justice,” Ald. Reboyras explained. Instead, Reboyras wants IPRA to hold “some briefings” with aldermen.
“I want to be able to give them [IPRA] an opportunity, so they can prove that they are working different than the last group that was here,” Ald. Reboyras said, referring to the leadership shakeup sparked by former IPRA Chief Scott Ando’s decision to step down from the post. Since he was replaced by new chief Sharon Fairley, top investigators have also been replaced, and Fairley has publicly stated she’s committed to reforming the agency. She recently announced she’d hire an outside firm, McGuireWoods, to conduct an audit of past IPRA investigations.
In an emailed statement following the mayor’s announced reforms, Ald. Hairston said Mayor Emanuel’s decision to wait on the DOJ recommendations “makes no sense.”
“This is our opportunity to get in front of the DOJ and do what needs to be done to ensure independent and fair investigations for everyone,” Ald. Hairston said in the email. “This is another example of being penny wise and pound foolish, because any court-ordered reforms and oversight by the DOJ will cost taxpayers more money.”
The DOJ pattern and practice investigation focusing on CPD’s use of force, “including racial, ethnic and other disparities in use of force, and its systems of accountability,” was launched in December. Those recommendations can take upwards of a year. Hammering out agreements on reforms can take even longer. An investigation into Newark’s Police Department was launched in May of 2011. An agreement with the city wasn’t reached until July 2014. A similar investigation into the Seattle Police Department took 10 months, but mandates eventually became snagged in the court system in 2014. An investigation in Cleveland took 18 months.
Some of the reforms Mayor Emanuel announced yesterday have been suggested before, including development of a “discipline matrix” at CPD “that will bring a clear and fixed set of penalties for misconduct.” That was first recommended in a 2012 report commissioned by Mayor Emanuel.
The expanded use of body cameras included in the Mayor’s reforms were announced back in January. The Mayor and CPD announced a body cameraprogram will be expanded to seven police districts, mostly on the South and West Sides. That does not include the two districts with some of the highest number of police complaints (per this Citizens Police Data Project heatmap based on CPD data): the 3rd (Grand Crossing) and 7th (Englewood).
Yesterday’s release says CPD is also developing an in-house early intervention system. But the Department already developed two, according to the Police Accountability Task Force report, which noted the system had “rarely been used.” Participation in CPD’s “Behavioral Intervention System” and “Personnel Concerns” systems “quickly dropped off after [the Fraternal Order of Police] filed a grievance against CPD for certain officers’ inclusion,” the PATF report said.
Those ordinances that will be languishing away in Chairman Reboyras’ Public Safety Committee include plans to put investigative oversight of police misconduct cases under the purview of the Inspector General and a plan requiring every active duty police officer be equipped with a taser. Ald. Jason Ervin (28) is behind both of those plans.
The Mayor’s recommendations released yesterday do touch on Ervin and Hairston’s suggestions, saying the city is “committed to” concepts like “a new Public Safety Auditor,” and “a role for citizen oversight.” But the release was short on specifics.
Another resolution, introduced in January by Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6) and supported by more than half the City Council, urges the department to research and institute procedures that promote alternative methods of force. Noting that using non-lethal weapons will “drastically reduce the likelihood of serious bodily injury or death in conflict situations,” Sawyer suggests the department consider solid or liquid filled rounds, foam baton rounds, rubber pellets, or bean bag rounds.
A similar ordinance, introduced from Ald. Ed Burke (14), would establish annual use-of-force and crisis intervention training for all Chicago police officers. The task force report noted that other than the academy, police officers rarely receive regular formal training sessions and that CAPs meetings are akin to “daycare”.
Another measure from Ald. Scott Waguespack (32) calls for the appointment of special prosecutor to represent Cook County in case against Jason Van Dyke regarding Laquan McDonald’s death. And an order from Ald. Rick Munoz (22) prohibits CPD “from destroying any documents currently in its possession or hereafter created pending U.S. Department of Justice review.”