‘A Matter of Life and Death’: Community Members Slam Chicago Police Department’s Reform Efforts
On Tuesday, the people of Chicago repeated their increasingly common narrative to a federal judge. They recalled discriminatory and traumatizing interactions with Chicago police.
A mother said she heard a huge boom, and then police officers burst into her house and told her to get on the floor. She claimed that they walked into a room where her 4-year-old granddaughter was present and brandished guns.
A man claimed that this year, police officers stopped as he waited for a Lyft, took his suitcase, and rummaged through it before leaving. A rape survivor’s mother told emotionally last month how her daughter was dragged out of a car by a male police officer while pleading, “Please don’t rape me.”
In a hearing before U.S. District Chief Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer, who is taking over at a pivotal time in the court-ordered, enormous overhaul of the Chicago Police Department to remedy decades of civil rights abuses, emotional testimony was given.
“We all know Chicago police don’t do this to white folks in white communities.”-A victim’s mother says
The mother who witnessed her daughter’s meeting with police remarked, “We all know Chicago police don’t do this to white folks in white communities.” Minutes before Chicagoans began recounting their experiences with what they called abusive and disrespectful policing, the deputy chief of the Illinois attorney general’s office gave her bleak assessment of the city and department, saying they have consistently “resisted commonsense” recommendations for sweeping reform.
Attorney General’s Office representative Mary Grieb stated in consent decree proceedings that the department delayed implementing critical new policies, including on practices as sensitive and dangerous as foot chases.
Department staffing practices lead to over-policing in Black and brown neighborhoods without allowing for meaningful community engagement. She did note that CPD’s written policies are “much better” now, but she did note that it “should not have been as hard as it was.”
Therefore, the public is “understandably apprehensive about where we are nearly four years in,” Grieb added. The citizens of Chicago will not care about our accomplishments on paper unless they see them mirrored in CPD’s actions.
As a result of a lack of personnel, Grieb said, approximately 1,500 shootings and other uses of force are currently waiting to be reviewed. These investigations are conducted to help improve policy and instruction and give direction to field officers.
“Our city, a place we all love, is troubled right now,” Pallmeyer’s opinion
At the hearing, which was the first court case to include public input since before the COVID-19 outbreak, dozens of community members and attorneys complained the department’s efforts were falling short, drawing condemnation from the packed courtroom on the 25th floor.
Pallmeyer, who sat through hours of testimony, finally wrapped up the session by expressing sympathy for residents’ worries that progress has been slow and discussing the ripple effect it has on the entire city, especially the intolerable rate of violence.
Besides Pallmeyer, the hearing was presided over by U.S. District Judge Robert Dow, who oversaw the reform process before becoming a counselor to Chief Justice John Roberts of the United States Supreme Court.
On Tuesday, residents began coming forward with accounts of being searched at gunpoint, having their children threatened, and experiencing other horrible events only to have the perpetrators laugh and make jokes about it.
A community member complained to the judge, “This consent decree has been going on for several years, and we are seeing no outcomes from it.” The time it takes to reform is not something our community can afford to wait for. This is a matter of life and death.
Members of the community voiced their dissatisfaction with the department after feeling their opinion was ignored when working with them on important policies, such as the use of force.