Racism Embedded in Chicago Police Department, Report Finds

The Chicago Police Department has a deep-rooted history of systematic racism, a report released Wednesday by the city’s Police Accountability Task Force found. According to the report, the police department has “no regard for the sanctity of life when it comes to people of color.”


Four overarching findings the report details as how the city got to this point are racism, the CPD believing “the ends justify the means” for their actions, failing to make accountability a core value and a significant underinvestment in human capital.

Chicago’s population is 31.7 percent white, 32.9 percent Black, 28.9 percent Latino and 5.5 percent Asian. However, the report found that the city’s police officers shoot Black residents at significantly disproportionate rates. Between 2008 and 2015, of all people injured or killed in police-related shootings, 74 percent were Black, 14 percent were Hispanic, 8 percent were white and less than 1 percent were Asian. The report found almost identical numbers when it came to statistics regarding the use of Tasers.

The report also analyzed all people stopped by police during the summer of 2014 and found they were 72 percent Black, 17 percent Hispanic, 9 percent white and 1 percent Asian.

According to the CPD’s own arrest records, in 2010 a total of 14,566 white people were arrested. For Hispanics, more than double that number — 31,395 — of people were arrested. And Blacks were arrested nearly ten times more than white people, totaling 120,189. However, the data does not tell how many of these arrests were justified. Similarly, white data shows that stop and frisks disproportionately target Blacks, it is not recorded how many of these stop and frisks are justified or lead to the discovery of contraband. Like Chicago, Missouri police officers were also found to disproportionately target Black residents. Blacks are twice as likely as whites to get pulled over in the state — but records show that white residents were more likely to be found with contraband than Blacks.

Despite the similar population of white, Black and Hispanic people in the city, the department still has more white personnel (6,832) than Black (4,010) and Hispanic (2,576) combined.

Some citizens have been speaking out against the mistreatment — but the report also found that 40 percent of complaints made against the police were never investigated at all.

“The community’s lack of trust in CPD is justified,” the report states. “There is substantial evidence that people of color — particularly African-Americans — have had disproportionately negative experiences with the police over an extended period of time. There is also substantial evidence that these experiences continue today through significant disparate impacts associated with the use of force, foot and traffic stops and bias in the police oversight system itself. CPD is not doing enough to combat racial bias.”

The Rainbow PUSH Coalition, headed by Rev. Jesse Jackson, in December called on the Department of Justice to investigate the CPD’s history of “discrimination, brutality, torture, [and] excessive force for more than thirty years.”

“Over the past ten years, the city of Chicago has paid over half a billion dollars to settle cases of police abuse, torture, brutality and misconduct,” the organization stated. “In a majority of these cases, the officers involved in these cases were never disciplined or terminated. This has caused a tremendous lack of trust in the police department by African American citizens. This trust cannot be restored unless the department is forced to change its police culture of violence.”

The report also slammed the city’s Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA). The IPRA is in charge of investigating complaints against police and police-related shootings. However, the IPRA has garnered criticism prior to the report because it has primarily been managed by and consisted of former police officers. The report recommended eliminating the IPRA in favor of a Civilian Police Investigative Agency (CPIA). The CPIA would “enhance structural protections, powers and resources for investigating serious cases of police misconduct, even in the absence of sworn complaints.”

“The new CPIA should ensure an accessible, professional and supportive complaint process,” the report notes.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed the task force and assigned its members the report late last year, following the release of the video of a white police officer, Jason Van Dyke, fatally shooting a Black teenager, Laquan McDonald. McDonald was killed in 2014 but the video was not released until more than a full year later.

However, the report found that the CPD’s racist tendencies have been going on long before McDonald’s death and rather called the shooting “the tipping point.”

Emanuel has not yet commented on the report’s findings but prior to its release said racism exists everywhere “and obviously could be in our department.”

“The question is: What are we going to do to confront it and make the changes in not only personnel but in policies to reflect, I think, the values that make up our city” Emanuel said.

The release of the report coincided with the official appointment of Emanuel’s choice of the city’s new police superintendent, Eddie Johnson. Rather than choose the new superintendent from a group of people selected by the police board, Emanuel picked Johnson himself, and the decision was supported unanimously by the City Council.

Violence in Chicago has been on the rise this year. As of last week, the city has seen a total of 605 shootings so far this year — almost double the rate the city was at this time last year.

Not everyone is confident that the report’s recommendations will be implemented. Charlene A. Carruthers is the national director of Black Youth Project 100, an activist group based in Chicago. She called the mayor’s task force “another example of the mayor’s office and those in power in the city of Chicago making decisions on behalf of the community.”

“I do not have confidence that the task force or the mayor’s office will take bold enough steps,” Carruthers said.

Karen Sheley, police practices director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, said that simply releasing the report is not enough and that the recommendations suggested “must be followed by action” if the city is to move forward.

“Corrective measures — those outlined by the task force and others — must be fashioned in a way that they cannot be reversed,” she said.

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