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.