Mayor Rahm Emanuel today delivered a special address on police accountability to the City Council that laid out a roadmap to restore the public’s trust in the police department. In his speech, Mayor Emanuel focused on three major areas: justice, culture and community.
“Each time when we confronted these issues in the past, Chicago only went far enough to clear our consciences and move on,” said Mayor Emanuel. “This time will and must be different. It will be a bumpy road, a painful process, and a long journey, but we will not hesitate in pursuit of what is right.”.”
First, Mayor Emanuel addressed the pursuit of justice on the issue of police misconduct, including the state’s attorney’s case against Officer Jason Van Dyke and the corresponding federal civil rights investigation; the U.S. Justice Department’s probe into the Chicago Police Department; his appointment of Sharon Fairley to head IPRA; and the recent agreement between the Chicago Police Department and the ACLU to have an independent evaluation of the department’s investigatory stop practices and procedures, additional data collection on stops by the department, better training for officers and better transparency for the public.
He also outlined the newly appointed Police Accountability Task Force, which will conduct a public and thorough review of Chicago’s existing system of police training, oversight discipline, accountability and transparency. The task force -- comprised of criminal justice and police oversight experts -- has committed to delivering a report to the public by the end of March that clearly identifies the problems and offers real solutions. Additionally, at the request of the task force, the city will appoint a senior officer for civil rights at the Chicago Police Department with clear authority to implement the recommendations of the task force and ultimately the Department of Justice.
Second, the mayor discussed the Chicago Police Department and the culture of policing in America. The Police Board has begun a search for a new superintendent to addressing the deep-rooted problems at the very heart of the policing profession. In addition, acting Superintendent John Escalante has announced the expansion the use of body cameras to a third of the city and has said that there will be zero tolerance for patrol officers who fail to properly engage dash-cams. Further, police will be retrained in de-escalating tense situations and minimizing the use of force while reinvigorating community policing strategies.
Finally, Mayor Emanuel addressed what every Chicagoan can do to make communities safer, explaining that we cannot ask community members to respect police officers if police officers do not respect them in kind. As the mayor said today, respect must be earned and is a two-way street.
The speech follows a series of steps the Emanuel administration has taken over the past weeks. In that time, the mayor has expanded the police body camera program, dismissed the police Superintendent, announced the new Chief Administrator of the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), formed a task force to review the entire system of police discipline and announced that he welcomes the engagement of DOJ on a broad review of the police department.
Mayor Emanuel’s full speech can be found online here.