A task force created by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel released a report Wednesday excoriating Chicago’s police department for systemic racism.
The report comes the same day the city chose Eddie Johnson, who is black, to be the new police superintendent. Multiple contentious deaths at the hands of police have led to continued protests by Black Lives Matter activists.
A Guardian investigation exposed in February 2015 that Chicago police have what amounts to a domestic black site, where they allegedly torture detainees who are often held illegally and kept from their lawyers. All this has marred the department’s reputation.
The report says the “community’s lack of trust in CPD is justified” and “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.”
The report accuses the police department of a “sad history of death, false imprisonment, physical and verbal abuse and general discontent about police actions in neighborhoods of color.”
The report includes statistics to back up the claims of racism, saying that “of the 404 shootings between 2008-2015:”
- 74%, or 299 African Americans were hit or killed by police officers, as compared with
- 14% or 55 Hispanics;
- 8% or 33 Whites; and
- 0.25% Asians.
Nearly half of Chicago police traffic stops were for African Americans, and about three out of four people Tasered between 2012 and 2015 were black. Chicago’s demographics are about 31.7 percent white, 32.9 percent black and 28.9 percent Hispanic.
The report lambasts the department:
The Task Force heard over and over again from a range of voices, particularly from African-Americans, that some CPD officers are racist, have no respect for the lives and experiences of people of color and approach every encounter with people of color as if the person, regardless of age, gender or circumstance, is a criminal. Some people do not feel safe in any encounter with the police. Some do not feel like they have the ability to walk in their neighborhoods or drive in their cars without being aggressively confronted by the police. The consistent theme of these deeply-held beliefs came from a significant cross-section of people: men and women, young, middle-aged and older, doctors, lawyers, teachers and other professionals, students, and everyday workers. Regardless of the demographic, people of color loudly expressed their outrage about how they are treated by the police.”
The scrutiny of the police department hit a tipping point when a video was released showing the 2014 death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald at the hands of police. Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke, who is white, was indicted with six counts of first-degree murder in the death McDonald, who is black, but pleaded not guilty. Van Dyke is also charged with one count of official misconduct.
A video of McDonald’s death shows him moving away from police as he is fatally shot 16 times. Authorities said McDonald had taken PCP and had a pocket knife. The high number of shots became a rallying cry for outraged activists.The footage drew national outrage and led to the firing of the police superintendent as well as calls for Emanuel’s resignation since charges were brought against the officer more than a year after the shooting. Emanuel tried to keep the video hidden from the public, but has remained in office.
McDonald’s death is the focal point of a range complaints against the police department. The report says his death reveals what minorities in Chicago have been protesting for years.
“Reform is possible if there is a will and a commitment,” the report says. “But where reform must begin is with an acknowledgment of the sad history and present conditions which have left the people totally alienated from the police, and afraid for their physical and emotional safety.”
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