On Friday, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the results of a year-long investigation into the Chicago Police Department. The report concluded that the CPD “engages in a pattern or practice of using force, including deadly force, in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution.” A systemic deficiency in officer training—particularly in de-escalation—and accountability contributed to this dangerous pattern.
Examples of aggressive police force include CPD officers initiating “good pursuits without basis for believing the person had committed a serious crime” and several officer-civilian confrontations that ended in fatal shootings.
“The resulting deficit in trust and accountability is not just bad for residents—it’s also bad for dedicated police officers trying to do their jobs safely and effectively,” said Lynch. “With this announcement, we are laying the groundwork for the difficult but necessary work of building a stronger, safer, and more united Chicago for all who call it home.”
The Justice Department launched its investigation of Chicago’s police force in December 2015 after the city released a video of a white police officer shooting Laquan McDonald 16 times.
As a result of these findings, the Department of Justice and the City of Chicago have entered negotiations about a court-enforced consent decree to reform the police department. Consent decrees—described as the DOJ’s “crown jewel”—are an important tool for imposing reform. During President Obama’s tenure the Civil Rights division opened 25 investigations into law enforcement agencies, resulting in 14 consent decrees.
The future of this decision remains unclear for a couple of reasons. One, President-elect Donald Trump ran on a “law and order” platform and has called for an end to the “war on police.” And two, Jeff Sessions, his pick for attorney general, is a known opponent of consent decrees, referring to them as “dangerous” and an “end run around the democratic process.”