August 5, 2016, Chicago- Our hearts are heavy today. The city has released another video, showing another unarmed black man murdered by the Chicago Police Department (CPD). A department whose sole duty is to serve and protect should be held to the highest standard. Once they take the oath to serve the City of Chicago, they become representatives of our city and of our values. As a city, we should hold our heads down in shame, because CPD's track record makes a strong case that black and brown lives are not valued in Chicago.
We must not succumb to the rhetoric of “black on black crime” when discussing police accountability. When black people commit crimes they are held accountable at a higher rate, as reflected by the demographics of the prison population. It is not the same with the Chicago Police Department. It is not acceptable that a black man is 9.4 times more likely to be shot by a police officer than a white man. Have the hearts of many been so hardened and desensitized to the unwarranted bloodshed of our black brothers and sisters? God Forbid.
But there is hope. For over two years, our member congregations have met with communities across the city, police accountability experts, aldermen, and Mayor Emanuel to address the issue of policing in Chicago. We’ve fought to create an auditor’s office that would monitor the Police Department, IPRA (or its successor), and the police board (or its successor). And when we say that we fought, we mean “fought.” Initially, the city refused to acknowledge the systemic issues of racism and corruption within the CPD. But the fight was not in vain. In April 2016, Alderman Ervin introduced our FAIR COPS ordinance, which would create an Inspector General of Policing.
On Friday, July 22, Mayor Emanuel released a press advisory stating that he would introduce an ordinance creating the office of an Inspector General of Public Safety/Auditor’s Office. Although we celebrate this small victory, we understand that it is simply the beginning. We must demand that the FAIR COPS ordinance is enacted to ensure that the new office will be given the power and access that it needs to help repair and reform this broken system. FAIR COPS is only a piece of this puzzle, and it complements any investigative entity, whether it is IPRA, CPAC, etc.
We must continue to fight to change the culture of the Chicago Police Department. We can win. As long as there is breath in our bodies and determination in our hearts, we can change things. As stated in scripture, “You will be secure, because there is hope; you will look about you and take your rest in safety” (Job 11:18).
We urge Mayor Emanuel and our City Council to support FAIR COPS now, so our community can feel safe.