Mayor rudderless on police reform

Mr. Mayor, where is your plan?

The 13-month Department of Justice investigation is complete and the report is in. They lay out 99 recommendations for improving policing in Chicago.

The DOJ report follows the report of your own Police Accountability Task Force with its own set of 126 recommendations. Some of those you’ve tried to implement were criticized strongly by the DOJ.

Now, with the Trump administration embarking on its own policies, it seems unlikely a consent decree granting federal oversight of CPD reform will be forthcoming. Attorney-general designate Jeff Sessions, for example, has stated that consent decrees “undermine policing.”

In lieu of federal oversight, Lori Lightfoot, the head of both the Chicago Police Board and your Police Accountability Task Force, is calling for a “SWAT team” of outside experts to oversee CPD reform. This would be a good start.

Instead of embracing this great recommendation, though, your response has been vague and elusive.

That’s too bad – a SWAT team can assist your office in both the creation and implementation of the plan for the top-to-bottom revamp the CPD desperately needs.

Here is just a short list of what needs to occur:

Early Warning System

You must immediately seek the implementation of an effective early warning system that will identify problem officers and mandate interventions be implemented before a major incident occurs.


The federal investigation lay bare any remaining thoughts that either the Independent Police Review Authority or the CPD’s Internal Affairs Division does anything to hold officers accountable for their misdeeds. While you attempted to address IPRA by replacing it and you did create a Public Safety Inspector General both efforts were criticized by the federal investigators. Both efforts should be reopened and strengthened as recommended by federal officials. Massive changes are needed within the Internal Affairs Division to make it one that holds police accountable.


Supervisors must be trained to actually supervise their officers by stepping in to correct bad practices and tactics when observed. Supervisors must also be held accountable when they fail to intervene when they should. This revitalization of holding supervisors accountable must extend throughout the entire department.


The training facility, curriculum, and instructors should be state of the art and be designed to serve the needs of cadets and veterans. Also, the academy can no longer be a dumping ground for officers with large number of civilian complaints. This may want to be considered a priority considering we are sending dozens of cadets through this academy each month and they are still using a decades old videotape as part of their use of force training.

Merit Promotions

If you are not going completely eliminate this practice then at the very least make all merit promotions public detailing those receiving the promotions and those putting the officer up. Sunshine will do much to eliminate the stink associated with this practice.

While this sounds like a herculean list of tasks to take on sadly there many more within the over 200 recommendations that are in front of us.

This is why Mr. Mayor we need a plan to detail just how the city is going to do this, step by step.

Chicago’s diverse communities and the approximately 11,000 Chicago Police officers deserve nothing less.

Author: Tracy SiskaTracy Siska is the Founder and Executive Director of the Chicago Justice Project.
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