A week after a blistering, 190-page report by the Police Accountability Task Force was released, which cited racism as one of many problems plaguing the Chicago Police Department, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced new changes the department would immediately undergo.
Those changes include Taser training for all police officers; new procedures and policies put in place for the department’s Internal Affairs Division, so officers could be held accountable for any wrongdoing; new training for all 911 operators and dispatchers; and sensitivity training for all officers as it pertains to dealing with minority citizens.
“As a city, we cannot rest until we fully address the systemic issues facing the Chicago Police Department,” said Emanuel. “The police department will implement these reforms immediately while we continue to work together to find additional ways to restore the fabric of trust in communities across Chicago.”
Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said one of his top priorities is to restore trust between police officers and residents.
“These reforms are a down payment on restoring that trust, and build on the important progress we’ve made in recent months,” said Johnson. “Working together with community leaders, parents, ministers, youth, and others, we will continue to build on this progress in the months ahead.”
Alderman Jason Ervin (28th) said he was optimistic about the future of the police department.
“I do not know Superintendent Johnson that well but I like what I have heard from him and I hope he will have the department pointed in the right direction sooner rather than later.”
Other changes the mayor plans to implement is the creation of a new Public Safety Auditor, which the mayor said is a role for citizen oversight, and increased transparency and independence for the entire system.
Plans for an auditor were already up for discussion in the City Council after Ervin proposed an ordinance that would create an independent police auditor and a deputy inspector general for police oversight.
“Essentially, this ordinance would help make the police department more transparent,” said Ervin. “The Chicago police, Independent Police Review Authority and the Chicago Police Board are not under the [city’s] Inspector General Office and Chicago police has the least amount of oversight.”
Among the report’s findings were 404 shootings between 2008 and 2015 and black males were shot 299 times by Chicago police compared to 55 Hispanics and 33 whites.
Blacks didn’t do better when it came to police involved Taser incidents either.
Between 2012 and 2015 the report concluded that 1,886 Taser incidents occurred and blacks were Tased 1,400 times, Hispanics 254 and whites 144.
Examples of racism were included in the report, which suggested blacks and Hispanics are targeted for traffic stops more than whites.
“African Americans have been particularly targeted in predominantly white neighborhoods. In [Police] District 18, which covers the Near North Side and part of Lincoln Park, only 9.1 percent of the population is black (according to census data), yet blacks accounted for 57.7 percent of all stops,” the reported stated. “Meanwhile, 75.5 percent of the district’s population is white, yet whites accounted for only 28.6 percent of all stops.”
The report gave other examples of racism when it came to traffic stops involving black motorists.
“In [Police] District 19, which covers parts of Lincoln Park, Lakeview, Uptown, and Lincoln Square, only 6.6 percent of the population is black, yet blacks accounted for 51.1 percent of all stops,” the report concluded. “[And] 75 percent of the district’s population is white, yet whites accounted for only 29.2 percent of all stops.”
The city’s top cop added that until the police department builds a stronger relationship with citizens, tension between the two would remain.
“Trust is at the heart of good policing, safe communities and is the central challenge facing Chicago today,” said Johnson.