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Police Misconduct in Chicago and the Future of Individual Rights

Police Misconduct in Chicago and the Future of Individual Rights

Many Chicago residents have suspected for a long time that issues of police misconduct and police brutality are serious problems in the city. However, earlier this year, the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) issued a report that makes clear what has “long been tragically obvious,” according to an article in the Chicago Tribune. Through its 164-page document, the DOJ report indicated that “Chicago does a poor job of holding police officers accountable for violence against citizens.” Now, three months after the DOJ issued its report, a research scientist who has spent years working to reform policing has been named to oversee police misconduct investigations in Chicago, according to a report from DNAinfo.com.

Will we actually see progress in Chicago when it comes to police misconduct?

Problems with Chicago Police Misconduct and Brutality, According to the DOJ

The DOJ report on the Chicago Police Department (CPD) and its approach to issues of misconduct and brutality should have acted as a wake-up call for everyone within the CPD, as well as to those who are in a position to make changes in the city. Here are some of the primary issues identified by the DOJ report:

  • Inadequate training of police officers to deal with crime in a violent city;
  • Improper monitoring of the use of force by police officers;
  • Improper (or lack of) punishment for police wrongdoing; and
  • General “reckless approach to oversight.”

The report highlight emphatically that the CPD has created “a culture in which officers expect to use force and not be questioned about the need for or propriety of that use.” The report did make clear that the DOJ was not accusing all officers in the CPD of wrongdoing, or even that they were violating the law knowingly. Rather, the report focused on the lack of training and the refusal to hold CPD employees accountable when they break the law. To be sure, federal investigators determined that “only one in six recruits . . . came close to properly articulating the legal standard for use of force.” And in the last five years, despite seemingly innumerable allegations of police misconduct and brutality, “fewer than 2 percent of more than 30,000 complaints . . . were sustained.”

Remedying Police Misconduct in Chicago: Will It Happen?

The DOJ report suggested that the only way to begin repairing the damage would involve “the completion of a court-approved settlement that would bind the city to its commitment to reform the Police Department and restore public trust in a battered institution.” Of course, this report came out while Loretta Lynch was still Attorney General within the Obama Administration.

One of the earliest steps, perhaps, might be the appointment of Laura Kunard as the first deputy inspector general for public safety. According to the report, if Kunard is confirmed by the City Council, she will “oversee a 25-employee, $1.8 million unit . . . charged with scrutinizing police misconduct investigations and the discipline imposed on officers.”

Kunard served previously with a team selected by then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch to address policing concerns across the country. In addition to overseeing the CPD’s own misconduct investigations, Kunard, if approved, will also be tasked with its own investigations into “police and police accountability practices and procedures,” and creating public reports from those findings.

Contact a Chicago Civil Rights Attorney

If you or someone you love suffered harm as a result of police misconduct, you should speak with a Chicago civil rights attorney about filing a claim. Contact the Law Office of Mitchell A. Kline for more information.


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