Chiraq: Rahm's Task Force Accuses Chicago Police Department Of Institutional Racism

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Apr 18, 2016 2:41 PM
Chiraq: Rahm's Task Force Accuses Chicago Police Department Of Institutional Racism

The Windy City has once again experienced a police-involved shooting death of a black teen, Pierre Loury, who was shot after a foot chase, where the Chicago Police Department said ended tragically, with Loury pointing a handgun at the responding officer. He was shot in the chest and later died of his wounds. He was 16-years-old. The incident took place on April 11. This is the fifth police-involved shooting for the year and the third one that ended in a fatality, according to the Chicago Tribune. 

To make matters worse, the task force created by Mayor Rahm Emanuel recently released their report on the police department, where they accuse it of institutional racism and a disregard for the “sanctity of human life when it comes to people of color” (via CNN):

  • In a blistering report, a mayoral task force said police "have no regard for the sanctity of life when it comes to people of color" and have alienated blacks and Hispanics with the use of force and a longstanding code of silence.
  • Task force chairwoman Lori Lightfoot said the report was "not an indictment of the entire police department" but stressed that "a culture of accountability ... is fundamentally lacking."
  • The City Council approved more than $6 million in settlements stemming from the deaths of two men in police custody.
  • Aldermen confirmed Chicago Police veteran Eddie Johnson as superintendent in a city shaken by violent crime and deep-seated distrust of law enforcement.

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The Police Accountability Task Force, created by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in December, released its report Wednesday, a scathing rebuke accusing the department of institutional racism and describing its accountability system as broken.

"The community's lack of trust in CPD is justified," the report said. "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 enforcement and other practices that disproportionately affect and often show little respect for people of color."

During the last eight years, 74% of people killed or injured by Chicago police officers were African-American, the report said.

The task force found that 72% of people stopped by Chicago police in 2014 were African-American, and 17% were Hispanic.

There are also the equally scathing reports on shootings, which have gone through the stratosphere this year. As of late, the city is on track to have a 500-homicide year, and almost 1,000 people have been shot since January 1. It’s the bloodiest ushering in of the New Year for Chicago in nearly 20 years.

January saw 51 killings, making it the deadliest month on record in at least 16 years.

February ended with a death toll of 45 killings, and March recorded another 46 homicides, according to police.

That's 142 killings during the first three months of the year -- compared with 82 during the same period in 2015, police said.

In all of 2015, there were 480

Last weekend, three people were killed, and over 30 wounded in shootings across the city, one of the victims being as young as a year old (via Chicago Tribune):

Three people were killed and 33 wounded in shootings in Chicago over the weekend, more than double last weekend’s toll as the area experienced its warmest weather in six months.

At least 913 people have been shot in Chicago since the first of the year, 370 more than the same time last year, according to data kept by the Tribune. There have been at least 168 homicides this year, 65 more than the same period last year.

Among the wounded this past weekend was a 1-year-old girl who was shot in the neck Friday afternoon as she sat in the back of a car on the West Side, police said. The shots were fired from a car headed in the other direction in the 5400 block of West LeMoyne Street in the North Austin neighborhood, police said.

This is tragic. Still, the number of people killed by gangs and criminals is almost certainly greater than the number of fatalities related to police-involved shootings. Now, concerning police accountability, this may be an area where some attention is needed, especially after 80 percent of Chicago police dash-cameras are missing audio recordings due to “officer error” or “intentional destruction.” The Washington Post’s Radley Balko noted in January that to consider most of these incidents as an “honest mistake simply defies credulity.”

These are deliberate attempts to destroy evidence, as are the countless incidents in which police have destroyed cellphone footage of arrests, beatings and other confrontations later resulting in allegations of abuse. But the courts long ago determined that when evidence goes missing in a criminal case, the defense must prove ill intent on the part of police or prosecutors. That’s a nearly impossible standard.

The hot trend in the police reform debate right now is body cameras. And it’s true, there have now been several studies now showing that body cams reduce assaults on police officers, use-of-force incidents and the number of complaints filed against police.

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A transparency tool that can be turned on and off, tampered with or rendered useless with no consequences for the police officer doing the tampering isn’t a transparency tool at all. It’s a tool that can save an officer from false allegations (which, of course, is a good thing), but that does little to protect the public from officers prone to abuse.

The vast majority of police officers are good, hardworking public servants. That’s a fact. But there have been some highly public instances of other acts of malfeasance, some including outright murder, in which we need strong mechanisms to hold police accountable. For many in Chicago, that begins with having a new mayor.