Now more than ever, police reform is a significant issue that should be dealt with on an urgent and effective basis.
The City of Chicago and the U.S. Department of Justice recently drafted an agreement on police reform. Except, one major thing was missing: federal court oversight.
As such, the local chapter of Black Lives Matter has joined several other leading community groups and a few individuals to file a class-action against the city, reports the Associated Press.
“Absent federal court supervision, nothing will improve,” the 132-page lawsuit stated, asserting that an unbiased federal court is needed to make sure the Chicago Police Department actually changes. A court could impose legal penalties for non-compliance with recommend changes; the Chicago-DOJ deal currently does no such thing.
In the Obama era, federal supervision of police reform was a given. But like many other things in the Trump administration, current policy is in stark contrast to Barack Obama’s ideas.
Current Attorney General Jeff Sessions feels that court oversight isn't necessary.
The lawsuit's plaintiffs urge for the courts to jump in and end “abusive policies and practices undergirding the alleged constitutional and state law violations.”
The abusive policies the plaintiffs are referring to come from a 161-page report issued by the Department of Justice at the end of the Obama administration that found that Chicago's 12,000-member police force routinely used excessive force, was riddled with a "cover-up culture" and was infected with widespread racial bias.
University of Chicago law professor and one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys Craig Futterman described the Chicago-DOJ draft agreement as “a backroom deal without any teeth.”
Of the lawsuit, he said, “This is the community stepping up when the government refuses to act and when it has long been clear that the city is incapable of acting on its own."
Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s chief city lawyer Edward Siskel claims that the city wanted court oversight, but that the Trump administration wasn’t really having it. “We wish the Department of Justice would have followed through with their commitment to a consent decree — but we are not there,” said Siskel.
Still, Siskel isn't worried. He told the AP that reforms lacking court supervision had “a proven track record of success.”
However, of the cities that have tried police reform without court supervision, only Washington D.C. has had any success.
Proponents of the Chicago-DOJ deal also note that it is cheaper than going the court-supervised route.
Andrew Stroth, another attorney on the plaintiff's team disagrees. “Chicago will save money and save lives by having federal judicial oversight,” he said, referencing the over $640 million in settlements that police-related civil rights lawsuits have cost Chicago. On the lives front, of the more than 1,600 people shot in Chicago by police since 1996, 90 percent have been black.