Chicago Police Accountability Task Force Report: racism, corruption, and a "broken system"

Chicago's Police Department are notorious: the force maintains a "black site" where prisoners are secretly held under fake names and tortured, uses political shenanigans to suppress information about corruption, sabotages their own dashcams, secretly operates illegal mass-surveillance equipment (bought with asset forfeiture money, natch), forces out internal investigators who do their jobs conscientiously, and don't get me started on the evils of the Illinois prison system!

But this week, there was a glimmer of hope in this story of hopeless corruption. The CPD's Police Accountability Task Force published an unflinching, thorough, evidence-based and objective look at the force's culture of silence, cover-ups, racism and violence. The report is especially harsh on the force's internal accountability process, which it calls "badly broken" and "riddled with legal and practical barriers to accountability."

The report is an easy read, but it's not easy to stomach. This is a picture of a city at war with its law-abiding residents, where an armed, criminal gang in uniform operates with perfect impunity. The report is the first step: it names the problem and describes it in incontrovertible facts and figures. What happens next in Chicago is anyone's guess.

CPD is not doing enough to combat racial bias. Policies need further clarification, as it is not clear whether and when officers may use race as a factor when initiating stops. While CPD collects a fair amount of data, little is reported to the public. CPD still has significant work to do to diversify its ranks, especially at supervisory levels. And more needs to be done to train officers to acknowledge and address their biases and deploy officers who are culturally competent and have a proper understanding of the communities they are assigned to serve.

Historically, CPD has relied on the Community Alternative Policing Strategy (“CAPS”) to fulfill its community-policing function. The CAPS brand is significantly damaged after years of neglect. Ultimately, community policing cannot be relegated to a small, underfunded program; it must be treated as a core philosophy infused throughout CPD.

CPD officers are not adequately equipped to engage with youth. The existing relationship between CPD and youth—particularly youth of color—is antagonistic, to say the least. Children in some areas of the City are not only being raised in high-crime environments, but they are also being mistreated by those who have sworn to protect and serve them.

Finally, CPD is not doing enough to protect human and civil rights. Providing arrestees access to counsel is a particular problem. In 2014, only 3 out of every 1,000 arrestees had an attorney at any point while in police custody. In 2015, that number “doubled” to 6. The City’s youth are particularly vulnerable and often lack awareness of their rights.

Recommendations for Reform: Restoring Trust between the Chicago Police and the Communities they Serve [Police Accountability Task Force/Chicago Police Department]

Chicago Police Department Task Force Report [Cathy O'Neil/Mathbabe]

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