If the Chicago Police Department wants to repair its relationship with the public- it’s got to acknowledge its racist past.
That’s one of the main takeaways in a 190-page report by a panel set up by Mayor Rahm Emanuel following the public outcry of a video showing the fatal police shooting of Laquan McDonald. The reports, which was released Wednesday, also calls for dismantling the agency that handles police misconduct cases, the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA).
Chicago Police Board president Lori Lightfoot, also a member of the Police Accountability Task Force, joined us to discuss the report and talk with listeners. Here are some of the highlights of the conversation:
The following interview has been edited for clarity and conciseness.
On the mission of the document
“Our mission was to do everything we could to lay a foundation to rebuild trust between the community and the police department,” said Lightfoot. She added that the fundamental principle the police department needs to have is trust within the community.
Reinvesting in the neglected neighborhoods is one of the recommendations. Lightfoot says police officers are being asked to do too much, and that there’s a need to address a growing number of social ills that are currently beyond their ability to pinpoint. She says those neglected communities need to be re-engaged.
The task force heard from lawyers, doctors, and other professionals who feel that they have been discriminated against and believe it is because of racism. When the task force juxtaposed those comments against the CPD’s own data, they found it to be true. The task force made very specific recommendations for the police department to acknowledge its racist past.
Lightfoot says, “We fundamentally believe that until the department really sincerely acknowledges that reality, that history, what their role has been … in creating that perception, it’s going to be virtually impossible for them to move forward in any meaningful way with the community. It’s got to be done.”
Lightfoot says it’s simply not working. She added that it needs to recognize that members of the community bring value to the policing of their own neighborhood — meaning they understand what’s going on in their neighborhood, they know the hot spots, they know who the bad players are.
“They are a necessary and essential resource that the police department should embrace. People don’t trust the police and you can’t solve crimes without the help of the community,” she said.
The task force recommended replacing the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) with something called Community Empowerment and Engagement Districts. Lightfoot says CAPS is failing because of a lack of resources and the task force would like to make this new group entrenched in the day-to-day work of policing.
“We’re talking about legitimacy,” said Lightfoot. “We talked to people who have filed complaints and they believe it is so broken it needs to be dismantled. The challenge is they can’t do their work without legitimacy. They can’t do their work without full independence from the police department.”
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