Advancing Police & Community Accountability, a Chicago Urban League Forum

Amid non-stop protests following the release of the disturbing Laquan McDonald shooting video {warning: graphic}, the Chicago Urban League pulled together a forum to examine the need for police reform and better oversight when it comes to police-involved shootings.

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Here are few highlights from the two-hour meeting.

Shot & Edited by @RawAmun | Odd Hibrid Ent.

As fate would have it, the forum took place just hours after Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s special address to the City Council apologizing for his (mis)handling of the largest scandal to hit the city in years. He promised to make an effort to pursue real reform in the Chicago police department – a promise that fell mostly on deaf ears.

Media Coverage

Moments before the panel kicked off, Lorenzo Davis, gave voice to that sentiment in an interview with ABC-7. Davis, a former IPRA investigator, speaks with the candor of someone all too familiar with – and perhaps jaded by – the corruptive culture and the lack of transparency within a number of Chicago’s governing bodies. The New York Times joined us and later produced this piece centered on Davis’ stonewalled attempts at addressing excessive force complaints/allegations.

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Lorenzo Davis

Craig Futterman, one of the lawyers who partnered with journalist Jamie Kalven early on to push for the video’s release, criticized the CPD’s “code of silence” in an interview with CBS-2. Attendees included Reverend Janette Wilson, Alderman Pat Dowell, State Senator Mattie Hunter, and State Rep. Mary Flowers (who, in a bold political move earlier that day, co-sponsored a bill that would allow for the recall of Mayor Rahm Emaunel).

So, What Now?

The panelists & community members covered a lot of ground but it would mean little if we didn’t walk away with viable solutions, ideas and actionable steps to bring about real reform. In particular, I must recognize Northwestern law professor and policy advocate Todd Belcore who eloquently summarized the conversation. Most of the bullet points I’ve copied below are his words. I also added in a few ideas and follow-ups spurred by the dialogue between panelists and attendees. *Belcore’s full piece can be found here. It’s a great read. *

  • FAIR Cop Ordinance needs community support – Paul Strauss
  • Support young organizing groups and encourage intergenerational collaboration. – Trina Reynolds
  • Encourage the Department of Justice to conduct a thorough investigation into everything from excessive use of force, racial discrimination in the police department, and stop and frisk policies and practices, to disproportionate minority contact.
  • Ensure that Chicago gets “total reform” Emanuel promised, starting with implementing the 30+ basic reforms relating to accountability, oversight, transparency, and community empowerment listed in:
    1. The report on the City of Chicago’s own website, *Update and supplemented by
    2. The numerous ideas and reforms suggested in this article.
  • Dashboard and body-worn cameras along with severe penalties for tampering with them
  • Create a streamlined community recommendation process and clear timelines for consideration and action by your office:
    1. Dissolve the task force;
    2. Set a tight timeline for the implementation of the basic reforms in #3; and,
    3. Allow community leaders to create a process for relaying future recommendations and the timeline by which they should expect implementation (if not, some formal enunciation of the position that the Mayor’s office will not implement the recommendation).
  • Respect the community’s voice when choosing who will make decisions that affect the community – Allow the community to create a list of vetted candidates and draw from that list when you hire the:
    1. Next superintendent; and,
    2. Replacements for everyone in the IPRA (or supplanting the IRPA with a city funded, community ran counterpart ie. CPAC etc).
  • Do more to ensure transparency
    1. Do not allow the destruction of evidence relating to complaints.
    2. Make all complaint-related data public when it will no longer hamper an investigation.
    3. Seek community input on the amount of time in which police misconduct files can be destroyed. Rights now, police can discard reports after four years.
  • Do more to ensure accountability – Emanuel mentioned that it is not too much to expect that we can put the right safeguards in place to hold officers accountable when they get it wrong.” The items below, in conjunction with the recommendations above, in the report, and in the article noted above, would go a long way towards ensuring that.
    • Create penalties for erroneous police reports.
      • Allow for penalty enhancements within the force for those who consistently receive complaints and file erroneous reports.
    • Stop allowing officers who are known bad actors to just transfer to other departments and/or receive their pensions.
  • Community members must vote and develop vetting process for replacements to offices like Cook County State’s Attorney. Election Day is 3/15/2016. Learn more about these candidates:
  • Kim Foxx for State’s Attorney 2016
  • Donna More for State’s Attorney 2016

Finally, I was asked to give an example of when police reform actually became a reality. Meet Las Vegas: A city of cops that stopped shooting people. Hopefully what happens in Las Vegas doesn’t stay there this time around.


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Esteemed Panelists (left to right):
-Rufus Williams, Pres. & CEO of BBF Family Services http://www.bbffamilyservices.org/
-Trina Reynolds, Black Youth Project 100 http://byp100.org/
-Jamie Kalven, Journalist http://invisible.institute/jamie-kalven/
-Paul Strauss, Civil Rights Lawyer http://www.clccrul.org/content/staff
-Lorenzo Davis, Former IPRA Investigator
-Craig Futterman, Law Professor (Not pictured) http://www.law.uchicago.edu/faculty/futterman
-Shari Runner, Interim President of Chicago Urban League http://www.thechicagourbanleague.org/ (Not Pictured)

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