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CHICAGO – Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot today joined Chicago Police Department (CPD) Superintendent David O. Brown to announce a new Community Working Group designed to review the Department’s policies pertaining to use of force. Comprised of community leaders, activists and police officers from across Chicago, the new Use of Force Working Group will convene in partnership with CPD over the summer to provide feedback, revisions and formal recommendations to the Police Department to adopt under a new use of force policy. To ensure the health and safety of all participants during the COVID-19 pandemic, the working group will virtually convene via video teleconference over the next eight weeks.
“These 20 diverse community members—ranging from residents, students, experts, lawyers and advocates—will not only review and revise all nine of CPD’s Use of Force policies but also work in partnership with our officers to build a better, safer and stronger Department,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “While we may come from different backgrounds and professions, we are all united in our goal: create better policies and better training for our officers so that we can empower them to addresses situations appropriately and prevent any excessive use of force incidents from ever happening.”
Launching this week, the new Use of Force Working Group will convene 20 community leaders, stakeholders and activists from across the city to propose policy recommendations designed to further ensure use of force policies respect the sanctity of all lives, officer safety and de-escalation techniques that prevent or reduce the need for force. This latest partnership represents one of many working groups the Department is launching this year to fulfill reform requirements set forth by the consent decree that ensure community members have an opportunity to provide input and revisions to various CPD policies, procedures and training.
“One of the most important components of our commitment to meaningful reform is ensuring that we provide our community partners with a seat at the table,” said Superintendent Brown. “The open and productive dialogue that will take place over the next several months will result in improved use of force policies for officers and residents alike.”
Today’s launch of the Use of Force Working Group follows community conversations held across Chicago in February to receive input from the general public on a series of policies and procedures, including use of force, community policing strategies, mental health and body-worn cameras. Consisting entirely of volunteer members, the Department composed a diverse group of community members with different levels of expertise and lived experiences who are all committed to providing recommendations for CPD’s use of force polices. These members include:
“As co-chair of the use of force working group, I plan to listen to the voices in the room and respect their skill sets, knowledge, wisdom, expertise, trauma, mistrust, trepidations, truths, ideas and rationale,” said Arewa Karen Winters from Justice for Families, who will co-chair the Use of Force Working Group alongside CPD Area 4 Deputy Chief Ernest Cato III. “I want to prove that it can be done with the right chemistry and authentic buy in from the Coalition, City and CPD.”
In addition to the community members, the working group will also be supported by Rae Kyritsi from the Center for Conflict Resolution who will serve as a neutral facilitator, Michael Dirden, Esq. who will serve as an Independent Subject Matter (Policing) Expert and Marcia Thompson, Esq as a Technical Advisor, both from Hillard Heintze. Further, four current law students will also serve as neutral notetakers during each working group meeting.
Following the convenings over the next eight weeks, the Use of Force Working Group will present their final and written policy recommendations for review by the CPD Executive Steering Committee (ESC). Comprised of the most senior leadership at the Police Department, including Superintendent Brown, First Deputy Superintendent Anthony Riccio and Deputy Superintendent of Constitutional Policing Barbara West, the ESC will accept or provide recommendations to the co-chairs for consideration.
“We know the value of these conversations, and we know the appropriate use of force is more than just a policy,” said Deputy Superintendent Barbara West, who oversees CPD’s Office of Constitutional Policing and Reform. “The concepts of sanctity of life and de-escalation serve as the cornerstones of our use of force policies, and we must never stray away from these core principles.”
Over the past several years, the Department has updated its policies on use of force techniques, technologies and weapons that officers are authorized to use. These updates include the use and review of in-car and body-worn cameras as well as the use of firearms, tasers, impact weapons such as batons, and POC devices. The Department has also committed to strengthening its system of supervision and accountability when it comes to use of force through the development of a Force Review Division that reviews reportable use of force incidents, as well as outlining supervisory responsibilities when reporting alleged use of force violations.
“For far too long, our residents have been crying out to be part of this police reform process,” said Alderman Chris Taliaferro, Chairman of the Public Safety Committee. “This new working group represents a partnership that all cities and their police departments should strive for as we work in collaboration with activists, community organizations and neighborhood residents to make our city safer.”
As part of CPD’s commitment to transparency when it comes to use of force incidents, the Department launched a Use of Force Dashboard earlier this year to provide public with aggregate data for use of force incidents over the past five years. Thanks to the Department’s investments in force mitigation and de-escalation training, citywide use of force incidents has seen a 14% decrease compared to the same time last year and a 34% decrease compared to the same time period in 2015.
Over the past several weeks, Mayor Lightfoot and Superintendent Brown have doubled down on reform efforts with new measures that will be implemented in the next 90 days, including crisis intervention and procedural justice training, a new recruit program on police-community relations, a real officer wellness program and additional reform measures. Residents can find the latest information on the Department’s reform efforts at: chicagopolice.org/reform