Chicago Police Department Consent Decree: A History-Making Moment

On Thursday, January 31, 2019, history was made in Chicago. Never before has a court-enforced consent decree to reform a city's police department been filed without the support of the U.S. Department of Justice. Here in Chicago, with the final approval of Federal Court Judge Robert Dow, the first measure of this kind became a reality.

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CRS is proud to have stood alongside our coalition partners in this charge: American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Illinois, One Northside, Communities United, Equip for Equality, and Next Steps. On October 4, 2017, our coalition filed a federal lawsuit centered on reforming the CPD. From July through August of 2018, we led efforts to gather over 900 public comments and reviews of the consent decree’s first draft. Then, from September through October, we continued efforts in amassing several hundred handwritten comments and delivered them to to the federal judge. On October 24 and 25, dozens of us from the coalition presented public comments before the federal judge. And, finally, from November through January, two of our coalition members represented our concerns in finalizing the candidates for the independent monitor.

Despite the Fraternal Order of Police seeking to intervene in the judicial process and file a claim with the Court of Appeals and intervention by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, on Thursday, January 31, the first federal court-enforceable consent decree became real. The final consent decree includes provisions for increased police accountability, ending the code of police silence, alternative diversion practices and crisis response teams, rights for people with disabilities, improved use-of-force policies, requiring police to document when pointing firearms at people, additional requirements for officer training, and improved assessment data collection and sharing.

The consent decree becomes effective once the independent monitor has been selected. With this victory, CRS, alongside a few select organizations, has the ability to file concerns directly with the federal court judge, should the CPD not honor the responsibilities defined in the consent decree. This is something to celebrate.

For those who recall the story of Joseph in the Hebrew scriptures, the story did not end once he was freed from imprisonment, appointed as second in charge, and won his victory. He then had the great task of keeping the country’s food supplies safe and secure for the next 14 years. In the same perspective, now that the consent decree is approved, we are moving into the work of monitoring the police department and the independent monitor to ensure both are correctly supporting the recommendations and changes of the document.

For the next three years, efforts will be required to ensure this process is transparent, make certain appropriate milestones are achieved along the way, and begin negotiations to settle our lawsuit. We will also need to share the progress and eventual impact of these measures while informing and educating our CRS congregations and the greater public. While it may not be 14 years like Joseph’s, we are committed to at least the next eight years as we enter the implementation stage.

We thank everyone who has walked with us by spending your time in meetings, reading emails, giving oral testimonies, making public comments, and praying. We look forward to the next great step in our police accountability work.

Do you worship at one of our CRS congregations? Are you interested in joining the work of police accountability? If so, contact one of our congregational organizers to see how you can be involved.

North Side, Northern Suburbs, and North Shore: Jesse Rojo,

West Side and West Suburbs: Damon Smith

South Side and South Suburbs: Rishona Taylor