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Chicago residents criticize police reform efforts at court hearing

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Chicago residents told a federal judge Tuesday their disturbing stories about what they called racist and traumatic encounters with Chicago police officers.

The mother said she heard a loud crash before officers burst into her home and ordered her to lie on the floor. She said they burst into the room at gunpoint in front of her 4-year-old granddaughter. The man said that earlier this year, police officers stopped while he was waiting for a Lyft, grabbed his bag and rummaged through it before they left without saying anything.

Just a month ago, one woman tearfully recalled, she watched as her daughter, a rape survivor, was dragged out of a car by a male police officer while her daughter screamed, “Please don’t rape me.”

The emotional testimony came at a hearing before Chief U.S. District Judge Rebecca Palmeier, who is stepping in at a critical moment to oversee a massive court-ordered overhaul of the Chicago Police Department aimed at correcting decades of civil rights abuses.

“We all know Chicago police don’t do this to white people in white neighborhoods,” said the mother, who watched her daughter’s encounter with the police.

The anecdotes from Chicago residents about alleged abusive and disrespectful police actions came minutes after a deputy chief in the Illinois attorney general’s office offered her own scathing assessment of the city and the department, saying they have consistently “opposed reasonable ” recommendations on how to achieve stunning reform. .

Mary Grieb, who is representing the AG’s office in the consent decree hearing, said the department has delayed implementing critical new policies, including on sensitive and dangerous practices like stalking, and said the department’s staffing practices lead to overpolicing in black and brown neighborhoods, not allowing for meaningful interaction with society.

While she acknowledged that CPD’s written policy is now “much better”, she said the process “shouldn’t have been as difficult as it was”.

“As a result, the public is understandably concerned about where we’ve been for almost four years,” Grieb said. “For the people of Chicago, the progress we’ve made on paper means little until that progress is reflected in CPD practice.”

Grib also noted in her comments that staffing issues have led to a large backlog of nearly 1,500 shooting and other use-of-force cases pending review. Such reviews are conducted to provide critical feedback on policy and training, as well as guidance for front-line officers.

The hearing, the first court hearing involving members of the public since before the COVID-19 pandemic, was held in a large ceremonial courtroom on the 25th floor to a full courtroom and drew a barrage of criticism from dozens of community members and attorneys. who said the department’s efforts are not yielding results.

After several hours of testimony, Palmeier concluded the hearing by acknowledging the community’s concern that not enough progress has been made and how the lack of progress is affecting the entire city, including with unacceptable levels of violence.

“The reality is that the situation in our city, a city that we all love, is very troubled,” Palmeier said.

U.S. District Judge Robert Doe, who oversaw the reform process until recently as an adviser to U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, joined Palmeier in holding the hearing.

The judges also heard comments from city officials. Jennifer Bagby, the city’s attorney, said progress has been made in rewriting policies and implementing officer training. City Hall “has been and continues to be committed” to the process, she said.

Among the speakers was Anjeanette Young, the victim of the infamous botched police raid in 2019. Cops forced Young to stand naked in her home while they conducted an indecent search of her home, a video of which went viral after being aired on WBBM -Ch. 2.

“We are taxpayers. We pay officers when they come to work every day,” Young said, becoming emotional. “We deserve to be treated with human dignity.”

The stories emerged Tuesday as residents described searches of homes and cars without warning or explanation, guns drawn on them and their children and disrespectful behavior such as laughing and joking during traumatic moments.

“This consent decree has been in place for several years and we’re not seeing any results,” a community member told the judge. “Our community does not have the luxury of time to reform. … It’s all about life and death.”

Community members also commented on the frustration of working with the department on important policies such as the use of force, only to have their opinions ignored.

Arewa Karen Winters, who chaired a use-of-force study group that included members of the department, said her work on the committee exposed her to other, more nuanced issues in police-community relations.

As an example, she told Pohlmeyer, after Officer Ella French was killed in the line of duty, Winters and other members of the group recognized the toll the department members had suffered.

Winters then told Palmeier that the community rarely hears the same expressions of empathy or compassion from police regarding the damage they have caused.

“All they care about is how hurt they are, and they want everyone to suffer with them,” Winters said. “I’m not in favor of repeal. I believe there should be law and order, but I just don’t know what’s going on right now. I don’t know how they still can’t handle the consent decree, but they (claim) they’re doing so well.”

The Chicago Police Department has been under a wide consent order since 2019 following a US Department of Justice investigation into the department following the killing of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by former Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke.

In recent years, the department has touted progress in rewriting policies and increasing the number of judicial reforms it has undertaken to bring some level of compliance, but the department has struggled with deeper, cultural reform. Critics said the department approached the consent decree with a tick-box mindset and failed to fully staff key departments, leaving areas needed for reform — such as training and the office that handles use-of-force cases — under-resourced.

Earlier this year, Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown came under fire fired by Robert Boykof the Chicago Police Department’s executive director of constitutional policing and reform, after Boyk sent an email asking him to reverse a decision to assign his officers to patrol instead of training officers.

Grieb spoke bluntly about the issues Tuesday, saying staff shortages at the department’s training academy have led to the use of personnel from outside units who must themselves be trained in complex subjects.

And in a troubling note, Grieb expressed concern that the department could complete the 40 hours of training now required of all officers each year. 2017 year A Justice Department investigation that led to the reform concluded that Chicago’s lack of basic training requirements contributed to years of reports of abuse and struggles within the department with effective and fair policing.

Staffing problems are compounded by the high number of retirements, which Brown and other department heads identified. And it’s not uncommon in the police force for leaders to reassign personnel to deal with spikes in gun violence as they occur.

At the same time, the chairman and the newly formed Public Commission on Police Safety and Accountability were also asked questions about how the department analyzes and uses data on the department’s staffing to ensure the most effective coverage of the personnel they have.

Achieving reform typically involves three steps: rewriting policies, training officers in new protocols, and then integrating them into routine operations.

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While the department has often cited the high compliance rate of the first phase — the rewrite policy — it is the second two phases that will result in fewer stories like the ones told in court Tuesday. This requires training officers in smart policies so they can use them in tense situations on the street to deal with violence without engaging in abusive policing.

Achieving all this is a complex process, experts agree.

Independent monitor Maggie Hickey, in her comments in court on Tuesday, acknowledged the significant work that had been done so far, including preliminary compliance.

“Chicago is no longer on the starting line. … The City of Chicago and the Police Department have come a long way, but they also have a long way to go,” Hickey said. “… With proper support, the existing level of compliance will provide the foundation for the city to achieve full and effective compliance.”

Hickey then also sounded a note of caution.

“It is clear that change is difficult, but nevertheless we continue,” she said.

Chicago Tribune reporter Jason Meisner contributed.

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