Why The Next Illinois Attorney General Could Shape Chicago Police Reform

AG police reform
Illustration: Paula Friedrich/WBEZ
AG police reform
Illustration: Paula Friedrich/WBEZ

Why The Next Illinois Attorney General Could Shape Chicago Police Reform

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The Chicago Police Department has hired new leadership, purchased new technology, and instituted new use-of-force policies since Officer Jason Van Dyke murdered Laquan McDonald nearly four years ago.

But the most highly anticipated changes to the troubled police department are expected to come in the form of a legal settlement between departing Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and outgoing Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Their replacements could soon be tasked with implementing those CPD reforms. The next attorney general will be elected on Nov. 6, while the mayoral election isn’t until February 2019.

Madigan, the state’s top lawyer, has been crucial in getting city officials to formalize their police reform efforts. She sued Emanuel, which eventually led Madigan, Emanuel, and residents to draft a police reform plan that was submitted to a federal judge earlier this year.

Under this kind of settlement, known as a “consent decree,” the judge will appoint an independent monitor to make sure those reforms are achieved.

The plan includes things like new policies for tracking when a gun is pointed or fired. But it can change. And when goals aren’t met, it’s up to the independent monitor to get the attorney general’s office and the mayor’s office together to come up with a solution.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Dow Jr. has scheduled a hearing for public comment on the plan in late October. That means the next attorney general could be tasked with helping reform the Chicago Police Department upon taking office — whether they like it or not.

“The office of the attorney general does retain a role in the implementation,” Madigan told WBEZ’s Jenn White. “Certainly when the independent monitor wants to implement changes, and things of that nature, the office will retain a role.”

Here’s a look at where the three candidates stand on Chicago police reform:

Images courtesy of the candidates

State Sen. Kwame Raoul, Democrat: Raoul replaced Barack Obama in Springfield when Obama left for the U.S. Senate in 2004.

Raoul spent most of his time in Springfield legislating criminal justice reform and has praised Madigan for “stepping up when [U.S. Attorney General Jeff] Sessions stepped back.”

Attorney Erika Harold, Republican: Harold, who unsuccessfully ran for a U.S. Congress seat in 2014, sits on several Illinois Supreme Court committees.

Harold said she would “embrace [the consent decree] as an opportunity to do something transformative for the city of Chicago.”

Attorney Bubba Harsy, Libertarian: Has worked at the U.S. Department of Education, a legislative aide in Maryland and an intern in the U.S. Senate.

Harsy has said that he isn’t convinced the CPD reform plan is a good idea. “It is a well thought out piece of paper, but until we actually hold bad acting law enforcement officers accountable for their actions, it’s worthless.”