U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday said the federal government will oppose the proposed consent decree between Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and the city of Chicago that aims to push forward reforms within the Chicago Police Department.
Sessions said his Department of Justice will file a statement of interest opposing the agreement because it’s “critical that Chicago get this right.” If approved, a federal court and a court-appointed monitor would ensure police reforms are carried out by certain deadlines.
“There is a recognition that the mistakes of the past are the mistakes of failing to reform,” Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said Wednesday on the Morning Shift. “I don’t even know what Attorney General Sessions is talking about at this point, but we need real reform and I think the people throughout the city of Chicago are committed to that.”
The announcement comes on the heels of the verdict in the murder trial of Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke. A jury found the officer guilty of second degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery Friday in the 2014 shooting death of Chicago teen Laquan McDonald.
The case helped spark a federal probe into CPD’s practices — DOJ issued a scathing report in January 2017 and recommended the department make changes to its use of force policy, to increase transparency and to improve officer training.
On Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ announcement
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan: It really comes at the 11th hour at best, and understand that the Department of Justice did not step up to their role and actually work on drafting a consent decree. Instead [sic] abdicated their role and therefore they’re not a party to this lawsuit that I brought against the city of Chicago to get a consent decree and reform the police department.
So really, they’re just standing in the shoes of everybody else in the city of Chicago who wants to put in place a statement of interest to the court. So again we have a situation where the Department of Justice spent over a year doing an investigation, I have spent over a year negotiating with the city of Chicago and the Police Department — a real road map to reform — and so I’m hopeful this is going to move forward.
Tony Sarabia: If the DOJ goes beyond that and wants to intervene to stop all of this, how would that unfold?
Madigan: One of the main factors the courts look at when they determine whether or not to allow somebody to intervene as a party is timeliness. On that factor, they are completely really beyond the time table. It’s actually the basis on which the court also decided the (Fraternal Order of Police) would not be allowed to intervene in the case.
On the need for a consent decree in Chicago
Craig Futterman: The Chicago Police Department is not going to change on its own.
This is following what may have been the largest civil rights investigation of a police department in the history of the Department of Justice that made detailed findings of an ongoing pattern and practice of civil rights violations in Chicago that have disproportionately impacted black folks here.
And then when the Trump administration took office, they said never mind, forget what you just saw… we’re gonna abdicate our responsibility to enforce this. And now they’re going 180 degrees or are coming full circle… in essence saying that we’re gonna go to court and demand that the CPD be allowed to continue to violate the rights of black folks.
On President Trump recommending a stop-and-frisk program to help reduce crime
Futterman: The president is ignoring the actual research and data that have shown, first conclusively in New York and then now we can see it in Chicago, that stop and frisk has not been successful in reducing crime.
He is advocating for a practice that has been documented here in Chicago, and in New York and elsewhere to have utterly discriminated against black and brown folks and has worked to decimate the very trust we need for law enforcement to be effective here.
On how the Trump administration is ‘out of touch’ with Chicagoans
Mecole Jordan: We have a history of bad policing, particularly as it relates to communities of color and African American communities. For the federal government to essentially disregard all of that to hone in… and come against something that is so needed in our city speaks volumes about our federal administration and how much out of touch they are with the city of Chicago.
This interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity. Use the audio player above to listen to the full interview.
GUESTS: Dan Hinkel, Chicago Tribune reporter
Jamie Kalven, freelance journalist and human rights activist
Craig Futterman, professor and founder of the Civil Rights and Police Accountability Project at the University of Chicago
Mecole Jordan, organizer with the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability (GAPA)
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan
LEARN MORE: Attorney General Jeff Sessions plans to weigh in against Chicago police consent decree (Chicago Tribune 10/10/18)