Prominent community groups filed a class-action lawsuit against the City of Chicago on Wednesday to force court oversight of reforms in the Chicago Police Department, according to the Associated Press.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of six African-American residents and groups including Black Lives Matter Chicago, is an attempt to force federal court supervision of the reform of the country’s second largest police force.
“Absent federal court supervision, nothing will improve,” the lawsuit says. “It is clear that the federal court intervention is essential to end the historical and on-going pattern and practice of excessive force by police officers and Chicago.”
This class-action suit comes after the Justice Department released a report following a year-long investigation that criticized the Chicago police for civil rights violations, citing use of excessive force and racial discrimination by officers.
Although a judge ruling in the community groups’ favor would make reform mandated, the plaintiff’s lead attorney, Craig Futterman, hopes the mayor will work in cooperation with the community groups to create a sweeping reform plan that includes court oversight.
“This is a real test for the mayor as to whether he is truly committed to police reform in Chicago,” Futterman said.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel went back on his vow to arbitrate a consent decree — a settlement of lawsuit in which person or entity agrees to specific actions without admitting fault of guilt — after the Justice Department under the Trump administration expressed reluctance to interfere with local law enforcement.
Proponents of consent decrees argue that they are the best way to ensure reforms. If the city and police do not follow the reforms they agreed to, a judge can force them to do so with a binding court order.
Despite Emanuel’s reversal on a consent decree, his dedication to police reform has been made evident in the establishment of a new police oversight agency and adoption of body cameras to hold officers accountable.
The plaintiff lawyers held a press conference Wednesday afternoon, where they accused Emanuel of back-room dealing with the attorney general, reports the Chicago Sun-Times.
Filing the lawsuit early is an attempt to cut off such back-room dealings and promote meaningful reform.