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DOJ Report A 'Watershed Moment,' Police Board President Says

By  Erica Demarest and Tanveer Ali | January 13, 2017 5:17pm 

 Chicago Police Board President Lori Lightfoot said the police union will need to work alongside the U.S. Justice Department in coming months.
Chicago Police Board President Lori Lightfoot said the police union will need to work alongside the U.S. Justice Department in coming months.
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DNAinfo/Erica Demarest

DOWNTOWN — Shortly after the U.S. Justice Department issued a scathing report Friday accusing Chicago Police of civil-rights abuses, the head of the Chicago Police Board said she has no faith the city's police union will help correct the problems that plague the department.

"I see no evidence that the FOP [Fraternal Order of Police union] is willing to work with anybody, which is really unfortunate," said Lori Lightfoot, the president of the board who last year headed the city's Police Accountability Task Force.

"Frankly," Lightfoot continued, "I think that does a terrible, terrible disservice to union members."

Union officials did not respond to requests to respond to Lightfoot's remarks Friday.

The 164-page U.S. Justice Department report is the result of "over 300 person-days" of investigating and interviews in Chicago, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Friday. The report posits that CPD training is grossly inadequate; black and Latino citizens regularly face a "deadly cycle" of abuse at the hands of Chicago Police officers; and that the city barely tracks officer-involved shootings.

While some may view the findings as anti-police, Lightfoot said, the report should be used as a roadmap for change.

"There is so much [in the report] that is intended to empower officers, to give them better tools and resources to allow them to do their job more effectively," Lightfoot said at a news conference Friday afternoon in the Hyatt Center, 71 S. Wacker Dr.

"Frankly," Lightfoot continued, "I don't understand anybody who reads ... this report and comes away with the perspective, 'Oh, this is anti-officer, and it's not supportive.' That's just wrong.

"I would encourage [union president] Dean Angelo] to actually read the report ... because there's a lot in there, that if implemented, will significantly aid officers."

Lightfoot dubbed the report "a watershed moment" and noted that recommended changes could prevent the city from shelling out millions each year in civil suits alleging police misconduct.

In 2013, the city agreed to pay Rekia Boyd's family $4.5 million after off-duty Chicago Police Officer Dante Servin shot the woman in 2012. Laquan McDonald's family was awarded $5 million after the 17-year-old was gunned down by Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke, who now faces first-degree murder charges. In December, the city agreed to pay more than $5 million in two fatal police-involved shootings.

"If nothing more," Lightfoot said, training and accountability reform "will save us tens of millions of taxpayer dollars that are going out the door every single year in settlements and judgments. I'd rather use that money to support our officers than pay plaintiff attorneys. It really comes down to that simple of a calculus."

According to the new report, the city does not keep complete records of police use of force.

"The City was not able to accurately identify how many people were shot by CPD officers," the report stated.

In investigating CPD's use of force, the Justice Department investigated hundreds of nonlethal police force incidents, police shootings and civilian complaints.

And while the city couldn't provide the number of people shot by Chicago police, federal investigators documented 203 officer-involved shootings in which 223 civilians were shot from January 2011 to March 2016.

The Justice Department report also found several trends in the incidents in which police kill civilians, "including that CPD engages in dangerous and unnecessary foot pursuits and other unsound tactics that result in CPD shooting people, including those who are unarmed."

The report also found a "trend in dangerous and unnecessary shootings at vehicles and other unsafe tactics that placed officers and others in danger of being shot."

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