The president of Chicago’s police union told a federal judge on Thursday that the Illinois attorney general had deceived him, by promising that a police reform plan wouldn’t conflict with the union’s contract with the city.
Fraternal Order of Police President Kevin Graham addressed Judge Robert Dow in the second and final day of public hearings on a proposal for a court-enforced plan to overhaul the Chicago Police Department.
The proposal, called a consent decree, was negotiated between the Illinois attorney general and the city of Chicago. It is based in part on a U.S. Department of Justice investigation that found a pattern of unconstitutional and abusive policing in Chicago. If Dow approves the plan, he would oversee its implementation, with the help of a court appointed monitor.
On Thursday, an emotional Graham urged the judge not to approve this agreement, or any consent decree at all. He warned that the proposed reforms would mean less proactive policing and more violent crime.
Graham also claimed some of the reforms being proposed conflict with the police contract. Graham said changes to the way citizen complaints or disciplinary files are handled need to be negotiated between the city and the union.
“Certainly I’m willing to listen to anything in negotiations,” Graham said. However, he said, the city had not made any proposals to the union, and instead, was trying to use the court to circumvent the bargaining process.
He asked Dow if he would be giving them a 30 percent raise, too, in exchange for all they would be giving up if the consent decree is approved.
“I’m only going to do what the law permits me to do and I think I made that clear,” Dow responded, interrupting Graham.
In August, Dow rejected an attempt by the union to intervene in the court case. In his ruling, he wrote that the union chose to publicly oppose the reform efforts instead of participating in negotiations, and the attempt to join in was too late.
Today, Graham claimed the union had not tried to get involved earlier because the attorney general’s office had assured him they had “no intention of going after the collective bargaining agreement” between the city and the union.
A spokeswoman for the Illinois Attorney General would not respond to Graham’s claim that he was deceived. In the past, they have maintained that they did include the union in negotiations and took care not to conflict with the union’s contract.
Graham is one of a handful of officers and people associated with the the union who addressed Judge Dow over Wednesday and Thursday, each of them spoke against the proposed consent decree.
Otherwise, almost all of the public comments have been in support of federal court oversight of the police department. Many people have urged Dow to institute tougher requirements for the police than what’s being proposed by the city and the attorney general.
Thursday began with a trio of speakers who told personal stories of their loved ones allegedly being victimized by Chicago police. One had a brother who spent 25 years in prison before he was exonerated by DNA evidence. Another had a brother who was killed by an off-duty officer. Then a mother told the judge about the depression she’s felt since the 2014 police killing of her son.
Patrick Smith is a WBEZ producer and reporter. Follow him @pksmid.