The American Civil Liberties Union and several community organizations said Tuesday that they have reached an agreement to provide input into reforms being proposed for the Chicago Police Department. Black Lives Matter Chicago, Community Renewal Society, the NAACP and the Chicago Urban League are included in the deal.
The groups said their agreement with the city and the Illinois attorney general's office allows them to offer input into the consent decree currently being negotiated and also take the department to court for noncompliance.
"The memorandum of agreement signed today is an important step in the long road to police reform in Chicago," said Kathy Hunt Muse, a lawyer for Communities United, one of the organizations. "Our goals are for a robust consent decree to be entered by a court, and for that commitment to be enforced. This agreement allows community groups to act as watchdogs during the long-term reform process."
After a 2017 Department of Justice report hammering Chicago police practices, the Trump administration voiced skepticism about court involvement and the city offered a police-reform deal that called for a monitor only. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, the ACLU of Illinois and the community organizations then filed lawsuits calling for federal court intervention and community oversight of the Chicago Police Department.
City officials reversed course, deciding reforms should be carried out under federal court supervision.
In announcing the agreement, organization officials said their attorneys will ask the court to delay further action on the lawsuits during ongoing negotiations between the city and attorney general.
Attorney general spokeswoman Maura Possley said the agreement is an important step in achieving reform.
"The agreement ensures that community groups have a clear process to provide their input on the consent decree and enforce its terms," she said.
Chicago law department spokesman Bill McCaffrey said from the start, the city and the attorney general said communities and stakeholders would have an important voice in the consent decree process. He added the agreement "reaffirms a commitment to a transparent process."
The Justice Department launched its civil rights investigation of the Chicago Police Department in 2015 after the release of police dashboard camera video showing a white officer shooting a black teenager, Laquan McDonald, 16 times. The video of McDonald's 2014 death prompted protests and demands for sweeping reforms. The officer who shot the 17-year-old was charged with first-degree murder and is awaiting trial.
The resulting 161-page report detailed deep-rooted civil rights violations by the department, including racial bias, excessive use of force and a "pervasive cover-up culture" among officers.