Task Force Finds Chicago Police Department Is Plagued by Systemic Racism

The Chicago Police last month investigated a scene on the northwest side of the city. Credit Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times, via Associated Press
The Chicago Police last month investigated a scene on the northwest side of the city. Credit Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times, via Associated Press

Racism has contributed to a long, systemic pattern of institutional failures by this city’s police department in which police officers have mistreated people, operated without sufficient oversight, and lost the trust of residents, a task force assigned by Mayor Rahm Emanuel has found.

The report, issued on Wednesday, was blistering, blunt and backed up by devastating statistics. Coincidentally, it was released as city leaders were installing a new, permanent superintendent for the Chicago Police Department.

“The community’s lack of trust in CPD is justified,” the task force wrote. “There is substantial evidence that people of color — particularly African-Americans — have had disproportionately negative experiences with the police over an extended period of time.”

The report gives validation to complaints made for years by African-American residents here who have said they were unfairly targeted by officers without justification on a regular basis. It raises the pressure on Mr. Emanuel and other Chicago leaders to make significant changes at a pivotal time for the nation’s second largest municipal police force, which has been under intense fire from residents and under scrutiny from the federal authorities. It includes more than 100 recommendations for change.

The task force amassed data that shows the extent to which African-Americans appear to have been targeted. In a city where whites, blacks and Hispanics each make up about one-third of the population, 74 percent of the 404 people shot by the Chicago police between 2008 and 2015 were black, the report said. Black people were targeted in 72 percent of thousands of investigative street stops that did not lead to arrests during a recent summer.

Three out of four — 76 percent — of people on whom Chicago police officers used Taser guns between 2012 and 2015 were black. And black people made up 46 percent of police traffic stops in 2013.

“CPD’s own data gives validity to the widely held belief the police have no regard for the sanctity of life when it comes to people of color,” according to the report, a draft summary of which was first reported in The Chicago Tribune on Tuesday afternoon. “Stopped without justification, verbally and physically abused, and in some instances arrested, and then detained without counsel — that is what we heard about over and over again,” the task force wrote.

The stinging findings come at a particularly troublesome time here, as violent crimes have increased this year and as police morale is reported to have sunk.

The task force was given its assignment late last year, after the release of a graphic dashcam video showing a white Chicago police officer, Jason Van Dyke, fatally shooting a black teenager, Laquan McDonald, along a Chicago street. Widespread protests followed, and Mr. Emanuel fired the city’s police superintendent, who was officially replaced on Wednesday by his choice, Eddie Johnson, a longtime officer who is black. The Justice Department has since announced an investigation into the department’s patterns and practices, which is still underway.

The task force members — chosen by Mr. Emanuel — were racially diverse, with professional backgrounds in social work, law and government. Lori Lightfoot, the president of the Chicago Police Board, was chairwoman of the group, and the panel was advised by Deval Patrick, the former Massachusetts governor who spent part of his childhood in Chicago.

Click here to read more

Source: The New York Times | MONICA DAVEY and MITCH SMITH