Civil Rights Groups Call For Investigation Into CPD Actions During Unrest

George Floyd Protest
Chicago police monitor protests on Saturday, May 30th over the death of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer kept his knee on Floyd's neck for several minutes despite pleas from Floyd that he couldn't breathe. WBEZ
George Floyd Protest
Chicago police monitor protests on Saturday, May 30th over the death of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer kept his knee on Floyd's neck for several minutes despite pleas from Floyd that he couldn't breathe. WBEZ

Civil Rights Groups Call For Investigation Into CPD Actions During Unrest

Attorneys representing a coalition of civil rights groups and community organizations are calling on the monitor overseeing Chicago’s police reform efforts to launch a special investigation into the actions of officers during the recent unrest.

The coalition has been given the legal right to help enforce the Chicago police consent decree, which lays out hundreds of mandatory changes to policing in Chicago and is overseen by a federal judge.

“The connection between CPD brutality and the consent decree is very real. And if the consent decree is going to be meaningful, if it’s actually going to have the potential to transform the Chicago Police Department, now is the time for it to become real for the people who are on the streets and the people who are most likely to be over-policed and to be experiencing the kind of brutality that we’ve seen,” said attorney Sheila Bedi, who represents the organizations.

Chicago has been under a consent decree since March 2019. Independent Monitor Maggie Hickey is tasked with reviewing and reporting on the city’s reform progress.

Hickey met with attorneys and some of the members of the various organizations on Tuesday evening. Some of the groups, including Black Lives Matter Chicago, have been at the center of the ongoing protests.

“During that meeting, people who were out protesting, who had been brutalized, explained to Maggie [Hickey] what they saw, what they experienced, what it was like for them to be on the streets, to be beaten by the police while peacefully protesting, to watch their loved ones be beaten by the police,” said Bedi, who was at the meeting. “And Maggie listened very attentively, asked questions and indicated that she was deeply concerned by what she’d heard.”

Hickey declined to comment, citing a paragraph in the consent decree that bars her from making public statements. She would only say that she meets with the coalition “all the time” as directed by the consent decree.

Following Tuesday’s meeting, the coalition sent to Hickey an outline of three requests that they said had been made at the meeting: that Hickey complete a “supplementary” report on the actions of the Chicago Police Department between May 29 and May 31; that she require the city to “implement alternatives to arrest” for people arrested for actions linked to non-violent protests; and that the monitoring team require the city to create a “centralized process” for attorneys to confirm the location of their clients and communicate with them after they’ve been arrested.

In the letter to Hickey, coalition attorneys wrote that “the Consent Decree entirely failed to provide any meaningful protection to the people of Chicago against CPD violence during the recent protests.”

The letter continues, “If the Independent Monitoring Team fails to take decisive, urgent action at this moment, the Consent Decree will be a historic failure.”

Bedi said the coalition was planning to meet again with Hickey Thursday evening.

The Chicago Police Department and the city’s law department did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Meanwhile a hearing is scheduled for Friday morning in the consent decree legal case in federal court.

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