BLACK VOICES

Chicago Police Department Must Face Its 'Racist Past': Task Force Report

“CPD’s own data gives validity to the widely held belief the police have no regard for the sanctity of life when it comes to people of color."

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Police Department must face a "painful but necessary reckoning" that includes acknowledging its racist history and the legacy it has created, according to a report released Wednesday by the city's Police Accountability Task Force. 

"CPD cannot begin to build trust, repair what is broken and tattered unless --from the top leadership on down -- it faces these hard truths, acknowledges what it has done at the individual and institutional levels and earnestly reaches out with respect. Only then can it expect to engage the community in a true partnership," the task force wrote.

The scathing 190-page report addressed issues ranging from the department's unequal treatment of black people to the city's acquiescence to the will of the powerful police union. It also slammed the supposedly impartial oversight body, the Independent Police Review Authority, calling it "badly broken." 

The report called the community's lack of trust in the CPD "justified," and said the department has done little to confront racial bias within its ranks. 

"CPD’s own data 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 report read.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel in December formed the nine-member task force following a rare mea culpa for the way he and the department handled the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

The report emphasized multiple issues the McDonald shooting -- and subsequent fight over transparency and accountability -- brought into the national spotlight. 

[W]hile many individuals and entities have a role to play, the change must start with CPD.” Chicago Police Accountability Task Force report

The task force, which includes a mix of legal experts, academics and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D), spent four months gathering feedback from current and former members of the department, public servants and community members. 

The task force made more than 100 different recommendations for reform, the most striking of which included a call for CPD's superintendent to publicly recognize the "history of racial disparity and discrimination" in the department.

Other recommendations addressed community empowerment, creating a new structure for officer accountability and tackling "institutional" issues that range from the department's "code of silence" to its lack of de-escalation and crisis training:

  • Replace IPRA with a civilian-based oversight board 

  • Replace the longstanding community policing model with one focused on citizen "engagement and empowerment"

  • Make data on officer disciplinary information available to the public 

  • Install an inspector general specifically for CPD who will monitor racial bias

  • Emphasize restorative justice tactics for encounters with civilians, especially young people

  • Create a more comprehensive response system for addressing mental health-related crisis calls

  • Reform the police union contract to help end the institutionalized "code of silence" 
  • Expand the department's body camera program 

  • Improve officer training and diversity recruitment within the force 

Beyond the racial disparities in policing, the task force noted that the CPD's current system of discipline and oversight "benefits bad officers at the expense of good officers.”

The task force has given the department and the city council 90 to 180 days to enact policies and plans to implement the changes.  

The report was revealed just hours after CPD Interim Superintendent Eddie Johnson was unanimously confirmed by the city council Wednesday afternoon.

Addressing reporters after Johnson's confirmation, Emanuel said "there's no question there’s work we have to do in restoring trust and building certain values of transparency," noting he had not yet seen the report and could not comment on it specifically until he had been briefed. 

“I don’t really think you need a task force to tell us there’s racism in America … in Illinois, or that there’s racism that exists in the city of Chicago, or that exists in our departments,” he added. 

CPATF findings on how black citizens are disproportionately shot and Tasered by Chicago police officers.
CPATF findings on how black citizens are disproportionately shot and Tasered by Chicago police officers.

The report is cautiously optimistic on the prospect of true change, noting that while reform is possible, it must begin with CPD's "acknowledgement of the sad history and present conditions which have left the people totally alienated from the police, and afraid for their physical and emotional safety."

"And while many individuals and entities have a role to play, the change must start with CPD."

Scroll down to read the executive summary of the task force report:

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