The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced it has found reasonable cause to believe that the Chicago Police Department engages in discriminatory and unconstitutional practices in a pattern of the use of force. The department found that officers’ practices unnecessarily endanger themselves and result in unnecessary and avoidable uses of force, according to a press release from the DOJ. Issues cited were the failure to train officers in de-escalation and the failure to conduct meaningful investigations of uses of force. The city of Chicago and the Justice Department signed an agreement to work together with community input.
Use of Deadly Force in Violation of Constitution
The DOJ stated that Chicago officers were using force, particularly deadly force, in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. “One of my highest priorities as Attorney General has been to ensure that every American enjoys police protection that is lawful, responsive, and transparent,” said Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch in the statement. “Sadly, our thorough investigation into the Chicago Police Department found that far too many residents of this proud city have not received that kind of policing. The resulting deficit in trust and accountability is not just bad for residents—it’s also bad for dedicated police officers trying to do their jobs safely and effectively. With this announcement, we are laying the groundwork for the difficult but necessary work of building a stronger, safer, and more united Chicago for all who call it home.”
In another historic agreement, the city of Baltimore and the DOJ signed a consent decree that will commit the city to sweeping police reforms aimed at restoring community trust in city cops, and ensuring that they conduct everyday police work within the bounds of the Constitution. The reforms outlined in the 227-page agreement will put significant restrictions on officers as they battle a two-year spike in violence, including limits on when and how they can engage individuals suspected of criminal activity, reports the Baltimore Sun. The decree orders more officer supervision and training on de-escalation tactics and interactions with youths, those with mental illnesses and protesters, and creates a special citizen task force to find ways to enhance civilian oversight.
Civil Rights Group Applauds DOJ
Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, issued a statement in response to the announcements: “We applaud the Department of Justice’s handling of its investigations into the Baltimore and Chicago police departments’ patterns of biased, overzealous, and unconstitutional policing. The Baltimore consent decree will help to put in place policies and practices that will ensure all Baltimore residents are treated fairly by the city’s police department.
Henderson went on to say that the Chicago findings are just the latest example of a nationwide problem in policing that demands a comprehensive approach to reform at the federal, state and local levels. “We must continue to use every tool at our disposal to build police departments that preserve the sanctity of life and protect all people equally.”