Civil rights groups including Black Lives Matter of Chicago have filed a lawsuit against the city of Chicago along with its police department. The lawsuit, which also names several individuals as plaintiffs, cites the city’s long, well-documented use of excessive force against minorities at the hands of the Chicago Police Department.
Calls for reform came after a scathing Justice Department investigation found a long pattern of excessive force at the hands of police, particularly against minorities, in the city. But according to the 132-page lawsuit the CPD, which has nearly 12,000 officers, will not be reformed without oversight from a federal judge.
“Acting through the CPD, the City of Chicago promotes a culture of rampant brutality, especially against people of color,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit blames Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson for the city’s “de facto policies, practices and customs” and says that any revisions in policy “are superficial changes in name only.”
“Absent federal court supervision, nothing will improve,” the lawsuit states.
A lengthy report from the Department of Justice, released in January, found that Chicago police officers routinely violate the civil rights of its residents, with excessive force falling “heaviest on Black and Latino communities.”
AG Jeff Sessions rejected punishing “the misdeeds of individual bad actors” — despite evidence of systemic racism embedded in some police departments.
Emanuel and Johnson were willing to cooperate with federal courts to achieve reform as recommended by the Justice Department.
However, with a new administration overseeing the Justice Department, activists and citizens don’t believe the city’s leaders will act. Earlier this month Emanuel announced he would no longer seek federal oversight to monitor CPD reform and instead would work with the Justice Department to use an independent monitor — not a judge.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan slammed the mayor’s announcement.
“The current U.S. attorney general has made it clear that he doesn’t believe consent decrees are an appropriate means toward police reform. That is in contrast to what virtually everyone else who has successful police reform take place in other cities believes to be the case,” Madigan said, according to the Chicago Tribune.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in April ordered a review of previous police reform agreements to ensure they align with the new administration’s principles, according to a memo.
“It is not the responsibility of the federal government to manage non-federal law enforcement agencies,” Sessions wrote. “The misdeeds of individual bad actors should not impugn or undermine the legitimate and honorable work that law enforcement officers and agencies perform in keeping American communities safe.”
But the Chicago investigation found practices of systemic racism that were not limited to “individual bad actors.”
The Justice Department report said excessive force falls "heaviest on Black and Latino communities."
According to the Justice Department report, Chicago police used force against Blacks ten times more often than against whites. Despite Blacks, whites and Latinos all making up roughly one-third of the city’s population (Blacks, 32.9 percent; whites, 31.7 percent; and Latinos, 28.9 percent), “between January 2011 and April 18, 2016, black individuals were subject to approximately 76% (19,374) of the uses of force, as compared to whites, who represented only 8% (2,007) of the force incidents.” Further, “black individuals were the subject of 80% of all CPD firearm uses and 81% of all Taser contact-stun uses during that time period. CPD’s data on force incidents involving youth also showed stark disparities: 83% (3,335) of the incidents involved black children and 14% (552) involved Latino children.”
The city’s former police chief, Garry McCarthy, was fired in 2015 after the city waited more than a year to release a video of a white police officer killing Laquan McDonald. Also at this time people were calling for Emanuel to step down, claiming he was involved in a citywide cover-up of police malpractice.
In a January interview McCarthy blamed the city’s alarming rise in violence on BLM, saying in an interview that protesters have created a “political atmosphere of anti-police sentiment.”
“The simplest way to describe it is we’ve created an environment where we have emboldened criminals,” he said.
Black Lives Matter created an atmosphere of "non-compliance with the police," according to the former top cop.
Chicago saw its deadliest year in two decades in 2016, closing the year with 762 homicides — surpassing the number in New York and Los Angeles combined — and over 4,000 shooting victims.
Meanwhile, according to an analysis from the Chicago Sun-Times, the number of arrests went down by 28 percent from last year — reaching its lowest rate since 2001 and half that of 2010. During the first three months of 2016, police recorded just 20,908 investigative stops. During the same period in 2015, that number was 157,346 — showing a decrease by 86 percent from one year to the next.
That pattern continued throughout the year. In August of 2015, the police stopped 49,257 people. This past August, that number was 8,859 — reflecting an 82 percent decrease.