Chicago Police Unveil Plan To Catch Up On Reform Mandates

Chicago police badges
Chicago police badges are pictured on July 9, 2019. A new Chicago Police Department plan calls for the department to accomplish more than 100 consent decree-linked tasks by end of the year. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ
Chicago police badges
Chicago police badges are pictured on July 9, 2019. A new Chicago Police Department plan calls for the department to accomplish more than 100 consent decree-linked tasks by end of the year. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

Chicago Police Unveil Plan To Catch Up On Reform Mandates

The Chicago Police Department released a plan on Monday outlining how it will try to catch up on its myriad of missed reform deadlines required by a court-enforced overhaul of the department known as a consent decree.

It comes after an independent monitor tasked with reviewing CPD’s reform efforts submitted two successive reports to the judge overseeing the case outlining the city’s failure to meet court-imposed deadlines or comply with the majority of the requirements laid out in the first year of the consent decree.

“Using the new Priority Plan, we will prioritize our efforts and resources in the areas that will have the greatest impact on the communities we serve along with our Department, and to most likely achieve significant progress,” CPD Deputy Superintendent Barbara West, who leads the CPD Office of Constitutional Policing and Reform, said in a statement.

The document, released to the public one day before department officials are scheduled to defend their performance at a City Council committee hearing, acknowledges “the high volume of work that lies ahead.”

“CPD believes it is critical to prioritize consent decree projects … so that the Department can focus its efforts and resources on projects that will maximize impact on its organization and accelerate consent decree compliance,” the plan reads.

Also on Monday the department unveiled a new “consent decree compliance” dashboard online that is supposed to make it easier for the public to track the city’s progress overhauling its police department.

For more than a year, advocates have pressed the city to devote more resources to meeting its reform obligations.

In a June court hearing, Shareese Pryor, chief of the civil rights bureau of the Illinois attorney general’s office, blasted the city for what she described as “foot dragging” on mandatory reforms.

“The process of implementing the consent decree has been slow. Slower than the consent decree demands. The mayor and the city have the power to change that,” Pryor said.

After a WBEZ analysis found the department to be behind on at least two dozen deadlines in the first six months of the consent decree, Karen Sheley, director of the Police Practices Project at the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, said the city needed to provide “an explanation of how they’re going to catch up and what they’re going to do about it.”

The plan released Monday is an effort to provide such a blueprint. In total, CPD is seeking to complete more than 100 consent decree-linked tasks by the end of the year.

“As is typical for police department consent decrees, the first year of implementation has focused on establishing the infrastructure and building the processes that allow for consent decree compliance to occur,” Sudip Singh, deputy chief of CPD’s Reform Management Group, said in a statement. “Some of these processes have worked well, while others need additional improvements. As with any major undertaking, the department has learned valuable lessons from its early efforts and is working hard every day to make further improvements moving forward.”

Among the department’s priorities: set up a way for school principals to give feedback on officers assigned to work in their buildings, revise its policies on when officers can use force, review foot chases by officers, complete an “independent expert assessment” of the department’s promotion process, create an officer wellness support plan and create new screening and selection criteria for those seeking to investigate officer misconduct.

Since taking over as Chicago’s top cop in April, Superintendent David Brown has talked up the importance of reform and consent decree compliance to improving CPD. A CPD spokesman said Brown last month started holding monthly meetings on consent decree progress.

“One area where I have a strong sense where we need to do better is meeting the deadlines,” Brown told WBEZ in a May interview. “So we will be pushing to achieve above and beyond what’s required. And I’ll likely not be satisfied until we get to that point.”

Patrick Smith is a reporter on WBEZ’s Criminal Justice Desk. Follow him @pksmid. Email him at psmith@wbez.org.