As A.D. Quig reported on zslwqjj.com June 17, the city missed roughly 60 percent of its reform deadlines in the first year under the decree. Hickey's second report covers Sept. 1 through Feb. 29—a period before COVID-19 struck the city and the social justice movement ignited by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis reached Chicago. The full report covers a broad range of topics from community policing and use of force to training and accountability.
It's not fair to expect City Hall and police brass to wave a magic baton and fix overnight all the problems that led to the consent decree in the first place. But the Hickey team's report provides a window into the process of gathering data and getting their arms around a vast system of enforcement and oversight that involves overlapping IT systems, complex webs of bureaucracy and, one can imagine, more than a little foot-dragging.
So now, one year into a process that could take years and perhaps decades, it is a good time to revisit the origins of the consent decree—a measure that the union, the Fraternal Order of Police, resisted vehemently.
In early 2017, the Department of Justice concluded a yearlong civil rights probe of Chicago's entire policing system. The investigation confirmed what many Chicagoans already knew: that CPD has a history of racially discriminatory actions, a record that not only made African American and Latino neighborhoods feel policed rather than protected—it also cost city taxpayers more than $930 million in settlements for improper police conduct. Meanwhile, as the Department of Justice put it, "the mistrust of police has hurt the ability of officers to do their jobs, which makes communities less safe and puts the lives of officers at risk."
The latest Hickey report carries that message forward to the present-day, post-George Floyd world, noting in a press release accompanying the report that "this is a critical time in history and for law enforcement. . . .The recent grief, outrage, protest, and unrest spurred by the tragic death of George Floyd demonstrate the urgent need for police reform across the country and here in Chicago. It is my hope that the current momentum around police accountability will inspire the city and the CPD to accelerate its efforts."
In other words, let's not allow complacency and even outright resistance within the ranks to impede the crucial work of rethinking the kind of policing that will make Chicago a safer place for everyone to live and work. The mayor and her new police chief must communicate loud and clear—from precinct commanders down to beat cops, from the Police Board to the Civilian Office of Police Accountability—that it is a new day in Chicago, and the time for comprehensive reform is now. Anything less than a full embrace of that change will not be tolerated.
This Police Department can no longer afford complacency—nor should it tolerate resistance to the kind of change made glaringly necessary by the deaths of Laquan McDonald, whose violent end helped lead to the consent decree, and George Floyd, whose murder sparked a movement.