Mayor Emanuel Hints At Changes In Police Officer Contract

Rahm Emanuel
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel talks to supporters on Feb. 24, 2015, in Chicago. Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press
Rahm Emanuel
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel talks to supporters on Feb. 24, 2015, in Chicago. Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press

Mayor Emanuel Hints At Changes In Police Officer Contract

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel hinted Monday that he will pursue changes to the contract for the city’s police officers, who last week elected a new union president who vowed to take a tougher approach to negotiations.

New Fraternal Order of Police President Kevin Graham has promised to “fight new, unfair disciplinary procedures” and to “restore due process rights.” He has specifically pointed to a policy change made in the wake of the Laquan McDonald scandal to confine officers to desk duty for at least 30 days after they are involved in shooting.

Emanuel told reporters Monday that he wants a new contract that takes into account the concerns of city residents as well as police officers.

“I want to be clear: While he won the election, we have to work on behalf of the residents to give them security, give our officers the training they needs to hold the highest professional standards and be proactive, and that we have an obligation as leaders — both of us — to work together on behalf of the welfare of the city of Chicago,” Emanuel told reporters at an unrelated press conference.

The current contract for rank-and-file officers expires June 30.

Graham’s election victory last week ignited concerns from some black politicians that changes to hold police officers more accountable may be in jeopardy. Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th Ward), the chairman of the City Council’s Black Caucus, said he would seek enough votes from his colleagues to block a police contract if it does not include significant changes.

“The FOP contract has been serving and protecting a culture of racism in our police department for far too long,” Sawyer told reporters.

The current contract came under fire by the U.S. Department of Justice in January when then-U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch presented the findings of a yearlong probe into the Chicago Police Department. The investigation was launched after the city released police dash-camera videos showing a white police officer shooting 17-year-old McDonald 16 times.

The Justice Department found officers routinely used excessive force against black and Latino residents with little consequence. Federal investigators partly blamed the FOP’s contract for a majority of police misconduct cases not being fully investigated. Of the 30,000 complaints made against Chicago officers during the last five years, 98 percent of cases resulted in no discipline, according to the report.

The city did not sign a court-enforced consent decree following the Justice Department’s report that would have mandated police reforms, instead saying it would continue to negotiate over an agreement.

But it remains unclear if those negotiations will result in a consent decree. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has blamed them for low police morale and has ordered the Justice Department to review of all federally enforced police reforms.

Emanuel on Monday said he wants to meet with Graham. He also said he wants better training for officers and investments in technology.

“Those are things officers want to see happen,” Emanuel said.