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Rahm: Chicago Police Department Will Be Reformed Even Without Court Order

By Heather Cherone | February 28, 2017 12:03pm
 'We’re on the road to reform,
'We’re on the road to reform," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said. "There’s no U-turn here."
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DNAinfo/Heather Cherone

ENGLEWOOD — Mayor Rahm Emanuel acknowledged Tuesday that the Trump Administration was unlikely to push to reform the Chicago Police Department under the authority of a federal judge.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he had not read the 161-page report released a week before former President Barack Obama left office that found that Chicago officers routinely used excessive force against minorities and tolerated "racially discriminatory conduct" by officers.

"I have not read those reports, frankly," Sessions said. "We've had summaries of them, and some of it was pretty anecdotal, and not so scientifically based."


At an unrelated event in Englewood Tuesday, Emanuel reiterated his pledge to implement the reforms suggested by the Justice Department, regardless of whether the Sessions-led Justice Department negotiates a legally binding agreement — known as a consent decree — to ensure that reforms are implemented under the authority of a federal judge with city officials.

"I believe high professional standards and proactive policing go hand in hand," Emanuel said. "We will make the reforms necessary."

Sessions' remarks to reporters in Washington, D.C., echo criticism of the Department of Justice report leveled by Fraternal Order of Police President Dean Angelo, who has said that the report unfairly labeled Chicago officers as racists and demonized them while making it impossible for them to do their jobs.

Session said police officers need more support.

"We’ve got to go back and make sure that our police departments understand that they’re being supported, both by the Department of Justice as an ally, and by the American people," Sessions said.

Sessions has long been a critic of consent decrees. In 2008, the then-senator called consent decrees "dangerous" and said they "constitute an end run around the democratic process."

Emanuel pledged — as he has in the past — to ensure that any reforms implemented by his administration would not be "done to" officers, as he said was the case in Ferguson, Missouri, Baltimore an Cleveland.

"We need to listen to [officers] and give them support," Emanuel said.

Emanuel touted a number of the reforms he ordered in the wake of the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald, including his announcement Sunday that all active 911 dispatchers have undergone mental health awareness and de-escalation training.

"We should have been doing that all along," Emanuel said.

On the day the report was completed under former Attorney General Lorretta Lynch, Emanuel said its release was a "moment of truth for the city."

On Monday, Emanuel said Chicagoans should "internalize the report."

However, his administration will take a holistic approach to fighting crime by working to create jobs in communities like Engelwood, where the unemployment rate is more than 20 percent, he said. The national unemployment rate is 4.8 percent, according to federal statistics.

Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), the chairman of the City Council's Black Caucus, said he did not put much stock in what Sessions said.

Instead, Chicago should use the Department of Justice's report and use it as a "guide or roadmap to improve police and community relations," he said.

Community groups and activists will hold the city and police department to account.

"All eyes are watching us," Sawyer said.