The Chicago Police Department must acknowledge its racist history and overhaul its handling of excessive force allegations before true reforms can take place, according to a scathing draft report from the task force established by Mayor Rahm Emanuel following public unrest over the Laquan McDonald video.
The Police Accountability Task Force’s report — which is scheduled to be released as early as this week — blisters both the Police Department and its primary oversight agency, blaming them for a “broken” system rooted in racial bias and indifference. It also targets the collective bargaining agreements between the city and police union for turning the “code of silence into official policy,” according to a draft of the executive summary obtained by the Tribune.
The 18-page executive summary recommends abolishing the Independent Police Review Authority, which investigates allegations of officer misconduct, and implementing a citywide reconciliation process beginning with the “superintendent publicly acknowledging CPD’s history of racial disparity and discrimination.”
The full report of the task force is expected to be much longer and be delivered to Emanuel this week.
“Reform is possible if there is a will and a commitment. But where reform must begin is with an acknowledgment 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,” according to the draft report. “And while many individuals and entities have a role to play, the change must start with CPD. 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.”
Emanuel established the task force in December after a video of McDonald’s fatal shooting roiled the city and raised the specter of a federal civil rights investigation, which is ongoing. He also announced the task force on the same day he fired Superintendent Garry McCarthy.
At the time, Emanuel insisted his administration had made significant improvements in the area of police accountability.
His task force’s own draft report appears to dispute that.
“The linkage between racism and CPD did not just bubble up in the aftermath of the release of the McDonald video. Racism and maltreatment at the hands of the police have been consistent complaints from communities of color for decades,” the report states. “False arrests, coerced confessions and wrongful convictions are also a part of this history. Lives lost and countless more damaged. These events and others mark a long, sad history of death, false imprisonment, physical and verbal abuse and general discontent about police actions in neighborhoods of color.”
Emanuel spokeswoman Kelley Quinn said the mayor would be reviewing the full, final report in the coming days. Quinn noted the city has been cooperating with a federal review of the entire department.
“The Task Force spent more than four months developing recommendations on an issue that is critical to the people of Chicago, and those recommendations deserve more than a cursory review of a draft summary. They are scheduled to brief the Mayor on their recommendations (Wednesday), and from what we understand they are set to release their report later this week,” Quinn said in a statement. “In the days ahead, he will give the Task Force report the thorough review it deserves so we can fully understand the thinking behind each recommendation, how they could or would be implemented, and how they fit into the other reforms we are working on, as well as the ongoing (Department of Justice) process. Trust, or the lack thereof, between certain communities and our police department has been an issue for generations. And that trust was further eroded by recent events and incidents.
“Our focus is and has been on making the reforms necessary to rebuild and re-earn that trust, and the Task Force we created is an important part of those efforts, as is our work with the Department of Justice.”
After appearing at a confirmation hearing before a City Council committee Tuesday, interim police Superintendent Eddie Johnson would not say whether the department should acknowledge its history of racial disparity.
“I haven’t had the chance to review the report,” he said, “but I do welcome the recommendations, and I will take a hard look at all of them.”
Panel recommends disbanding IPRA
Emanuel had said the task force would examine whether changes should be made to improve IPRA’s investigations, but the report calls for the body to be eliminated and replaced altogether by a “new and fully transparent and accountable Civilian Police Investigative Agency, which will enhance structural protections, powers and resources for investigating serious cases of police misconduct, even in the absence of sworn complaints.”