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Proposed Police Overhaul Would Target Racism, Misconduct

Community mistrust in the Chicago Police Department is justified, according to a scathing report released Wednesday from a task force created by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The report also proposes combating department “racism” and replacing the city’s Independent Police Review Authority with a new agency.

IPRA “has been run by former law enforcement who allowed leadership to reverse findings without creating any record of the changes,” the report said. “IPRA has lost the trust of the community, which it cannot function without.”

Emanuel created the task force in December, a week after the city complied with a judge’s order to release the video showing officer Jason Van Dyke fatally shooting Laquan McDonald. Since then, the panel has held community meetings and gathered input from elected officials, religious leaders, officers and many others.

The 183-page report, as expected, looked at the city’s handling of officers who have shot more than 400 people since 2007. It also covers topics ranging from a “code of silence” among officers to racial bias in the police department’s stop-and-frisk policies.

Attorney Lori Lightfoot, who chaired the panel, pointed to statistics from two North Side police districts where African Americans make up a small percent of the population but a large portion of those stopped and searched.

“What we heard from people all across the city is they felt like they didn’t even have a claim to the geography in front of their house, on their street or their neighborhood,” Lightfoot said. “And if you are an African American young man, the chances of you being stopped multiple times in one year are significantly high.”

More than 100 recommendations

Among more than 100 task-force recommendations is a proposal to replace the Independent Police Review Authority with a new entity, the Civilian Police Investigative Agency, whose leaders would be selected with community input, Lightfoot said.

The agency’s powers would also be stronger than IPRA’s. It could, for example, investigate allegations from community members who declined to provide a sworn complaint.

The task force also addresses the city’s contract with officer unions, including the Fraternal Order of Police lodge that represents rank-and-file cops. The task force’s report says the FOP contract turns a "code of silence into official policy." After shooting someone, for example, officers get to revise their statement about the incident if a video comes in.

Other recommendations are more simple. One would create a hotline for officers to anonymously report misconduct. Find all of the recommendations in the full report here.

One thing the task force did not recommend was any major change with the Police Board, a mayor-appointed panel that holds trial-like hearings about the most serious cases -- the last stop in the city’s discipline process for officers.

Mayor noncommittal on disbanding IPRA

Asked about the report Wednesday, Emanuel said he had not yet been briefed on it. He said the city needs police-oversight changes but would not say whether he agreed with the recommendation to disband IPRA.

“I think that there is no doubt that we have a lot of work to do in the sense of not only restoring trust but building what, I think, are essential values of transparency.” Emanuel said. “And IPRA’s going to play an important role in that and, if not IPRA, some entity and we’ll work through those issues.”

Many of the proposals will require the mayor’s backing. Some will require changes to city or state laws. Many will face resistance from officers who are convinced that task-force members have no idea what it is like to be a Chicago cop.

At the news conference to unveil the task-force report, Lightfoot all but begged police-accountability advocates to keep up pressure on officials and to push for the recommendations.

“We call on you to roll up your sleeves,” she said.

In the days leading up to the task-force recommendations, two groups of aldermen each offered separate proposals to disband IPRA.

Lauren Chooljian contributed to this story. 

Chip Mitchell reports from WBEZ’s West Side bureau. Follow him @ChipMitchell1.

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