MEMBERS of the Chicago Police Department (CPD) have “no regard for the sanctity of life when it comes to people of colour.” So says a report published on April 13th by the police accountability task force appointed by Rahm Emanuel, the city’s mayor. “The community’s lack of trust in CPD is justified. There is substantial evidence that people of colour— particularly African-Americans—have had disproportionately negative experiences with the police over an extended period of time.” The 190-page report is highly critical of what is describes as a code of silence among individual police officers and the police force as a whole. It also calls for the replacement of the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), which investigates police shootings and serious misconduct and is widely seen as biased towards the police.
The Chicago Police Department is failing to hold officers accountable and not doing enough to combat a “justified” lack of trust from the community, according to a sweeping report released Wednesday by a task force assembled by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
This task force was announced as the country’s second-largest local law enforcement agency was grappling with protests after graphic footage of a police officer shooting a teenager was released. Since that video emerged, the Justice Department has announced a federal probe of the beleaguered force, which has also struggled amid what officials described as low morale.
The task force’s report was unsparing when it came to the department’s problems with race, saying that its members “heard over and over again from a range of voices” who feel that the Chicago police are racist.
“There is substantial evidence that people of color— particuarly African-Americans—have had disproportionately negative experiences with the police over an extended period of time,” the report stated. “There is also substantial evidence that these experiences continue today through significant disparate impacts associated with the use of force, foot and traffic stops and bias in the police oversight system itself.”
It went on to say that some people in the community “do not feel safe in any encounter with the police.”
A spokesman for the department did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the report.
Before the report was released, Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) said he would be open to any recommendations from the group, including dismantling the agency that oversees allegations of police misconduct.
“I don’t really think you need a task force to know we have racism in America, we have racism in Illinois or that there is racism that exists in the city of Chicago and obviously can be in our departments,” Emanuel said, according to the Chicago Tribune. “The question isn’t, ‘Do we have racism?’ We do. The question is, ‘what are you going to do about it?’”
The task force was announced by Emanuel in December when he also revealed that he had asked Garry F. McCarthy, his police superintendent, to step down. That came amid an outcry that followed the release of a video showing Jason Van Dyke, one of the city’s police officers, firing more than a dozen bullets at 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.
Emanuel described the task force as needed to improve independent oversight of the department as well as how authorities respond when there are complaints against officers.
Chicago police shot and killed two people early Saturday morning after responding to what they called a domestic disturbance call.
According to NBC 5, police fatally shot Quintonio Legrier, a student at Northern Illinois University, after responding to a call from Legrier’s father. Family at the scene say that police were called after Legrier threatened his father with a baseball bat.
However, Janet Cookery, Legrier’s mother, said her son suffered from mental illness. “He was having a mental situation. Sometimes he will get loud, but not violent,” Cookery told WLS-TV in Chicago.
Police shootings of people suffering from mental illness are a common occurrence. According to a Washington Post investigation, police shot and killed 124 people “in the throes of mental or emotional crisis” in the first six months of 2015. That accounted for nearly one-fourth of all police shootings in the first half of the year.
People around the victims often find themselves in danger as well. On Monday, a Georgia man attempting help his son who was in distress was fatally shot by police.
The second victim in Chicago, Bettie Jones, was a mother of five who lived in the same apartment building as Legrier and his father. Witnesses say she was shot in the neck shortly after opening the door for police. Jones’ daughter said she found her mother on the ground after being awoken by three gunshots.
President’s comments chime with Hillary Clinton’s lament for ‘loss of so many young African Americans’ as Chicago braces for more demonstrations
President Obama has said he was “deeply disturbed by the footage of the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald” in a Facebook message in which he also thanked the people of Chicago for their peaceful protests.
Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has also plunged into the heated debate following the release of a video showing the black teenager being shot multiple times by a Chicago police officer, saying: “We cannot go on like this.”
She also put the death in a national context, lamenting “the loss of so many young African Americans taken too soon” in a statement released on Twitter as Chicago continued to simmer in the wake of protests on the night the video was made public.
The city is braced for further demonstrations over the footage of 17-year-old Laquan being gunned down as he jaywalked near law enforcement, and a white Chicago officer was charged with murder in connection with the death.
“The family of Laquan McDonald and the people of Chicago deserve justice and accountability,” Clinton said.
She added that the country needed to grapple with broader questions.
“The mothers I met recently in Chicago are right: we cannot go on like this. All over America, there are police officers honorably doing their duty, demonstrating how to protect the public without resorting to unnecessary force. We need to learn from and build on those examples,” she said.
Obama reiterated this, asking Americans to “be thankful for the overwhelming majority of men and women in uniform who protect our communities with honor”.
He added: “I’m personally grateful to the people of my hometown for keeping protests peaceful.”
In Chicago, prosecutors dropped aggravated battery charges against activist and poet Malcolm London, who was arrested during demonstrations overnight on Tuesday.
“You are free to go,” judge Peggy Chiampas told London on Wednesday afternoon after he appeared in a packed courthouse.