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Officials File Proposed Consent Decree in Federal Court Seeking Reforms for CPD

Thursday's filing marks the latest development in the city’s negotiations to reform the Chicago Police Department

Chicago officials filed in federal court a controversial proposal on reforming the city's police department, including a requirement that officers must document each time they point a gun at someone. 

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madgian and Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson filed the negotiated draft consent decree Thursday, which "mandates comprehensive reform of CPD’s policies, practices, training and accountability mechanisms."

“Today is an historic day for the city of Chicago,” Madigan said in a statement. “The consent decree is a unique opportunity to achieve real and lasting reform of the Chicago Police Department. The consent decree will support Chicago’s people and police with the goal of promoting safe and effective policing that builds respect and trust between residents and the police.”

Among the requirements in the proposed decree is one that requires an officer's immediate supervisor to be notified each time a gun is pointed at someone. The supervisor will then review the incident and ensure policy was followed. By January 2020, an independent monitor would review the incident and recommend any necessary changes. 

The agreement goes on to require CPD headquarters to do its own audit within 30 days of a gun being pointed to address any concerns or violations. Officers will also be required to radio in the incident to the Office of Emergency Mangement, where it will be logged. 

The pending agreement has drawn mixed reactions from law enforcement advocates, activists and other others since it was first announced in July, but the latest addition brought more praise and criticism as negotiations continue.  

“I can unclip a holster right now, that's technically unholstering. This is different," Johnson said previously on the provision. "That’s pointing it directly at you. You know that I’m pointing my weapon at you.”

The Fraternal Order of Police said it plans to fight the addition in court, calling it a "bad move" by the police department and Attorney General's office. 

"We believe police officers are going to be hesitating because they don’t want to be second guessed by the department," said Kevin Graham, president of the FOP. 

Thursday's filing marks the latest development in the city’s negotiations to reform the police department after the U.S. Department of Justice released the findings of its year-long investigation in January 2017, concluding that CPD was plagued by civil rights violations, including a "pattern and practice" of excessive force and abuse.

Outgoing Attorney General Loretta Lynch, serving under former President Barack Obama, published the more than 150-page report that called for a sweeping series of reforms to be enforced by a consent decree – meaning compliance with those changes would be overseen by a federal judge, with the power to issue legally-binding court orders.

However, with the shift to President Donald Trump’s administration, current Attorney General Jeff Sessions has demonstrated reluctance to enter such an agreement, expressing concern shortly after his swearing-in that civil rights investigations like the one conducted in Chicago do not help police departments, but rather serve to “diminish their effectiveness” in combatting crime.

Lisa Madigan's office filed a lawsuit in August 2017 seeking federal court oversight of the Chicago Police Department after the change in administrations, saying it would be the first step for the Illinois Attorney General’s office to step into the role of a de facto Justice Department.

In July, Madigan and Emanuel released a draft of the proposed agreement that would be enforced by a federal judge and an independent monitor.

The 232-page document called for "wide-reaching reform of CPD's policies, practices, training, and accountability mechanisms."

Emanuel reportedly pushed back on the requirement for officers to document each time they point their weapon - until yesterday when he agreed, according to the Chicago Tribune, one day after he announced that he would not be running for re-election.

“This consent decree will cement the reforms we have made in recent years and drive future reforms in the years ahead - strengthening or police department and improving public safety," Emanuel said in a statement. "I'm proud of the work Eddie Johnson and the legal team have done over the past year - not just on this issue, not on the consent decree but on the our larger reform efforts. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Chicago is on the road to reform, and there will be no U turns.”

The ACLU of Illinois called the addition "welcome news," but called for further changes before the decree is implemented. 

"The decree they file in court must be revised to ensure the City has an effective crisis intervention program, addresses police interactions with people with disabilities, and makes the reform plans enforceable and transparent,” the ACLU said in a statement. 

Johnson said the department has been "more transparent in these last couple of years than i think ever in the history of the police department." 

Madigan added that almost every major city in the country already has a similar provision.

"If officers are hesitant to use their weapons in appropriate circumstances then they need further training," she said. 

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