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It's Official: The Chicago Police Department Has a Serious Racism Problem

A task force appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel has declared that the city's police department is plagued by racism and that the community's lack of trust in its officers is justified.
April 14, 2016, 7:45pm
Imagen por Tannen Maury/EPA

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The Chicago Police Department is plagued by racism and many of its officers show "no regard for the sanctity of life when it comes to people of color," a panel tasked by the city's mayor to probe department practices declared on Wednesday.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel created the panel last December in response to massive public protest after the city released a video showing a white Chicago police officer shooting black teenager Laquan McDonald, who was armed with a knife, in the street as he walked away. Describing McDonald's death as a "tipping point," the task force said community outrage had given voice to long-simmering anger over excessive law enforcement actions that included physical and verbal abuse.

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"The deaths of numerous men and women of color whose lives came to an end solely because of an encounter with CPD became a rallying cry," the task force wrote in the report. "Far too many of our residents are at daily risk of being caught up in a cycle of policing that deprives them of their basic human rights."

Chicago Police Department spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi said the department had not yet seen the recommendations from the task force, but that the superintendent was awaiting its findings. The task force said the department's own data supported the view among residents that it's officers have "no regard to the sanctity of life" when it comes to people of color.

Of the 404 police shootings between 2008 and 2015, 74 percent involved black people being shot or killed, 14 percent involved Hispanics, 8 percent involved whites, and 0.25 percent involved Asian-Americans. The task force said police used Taser stun guns on suspects in about the same proportions and that blacks were disproportionately subjected to traffic stops.

"The community's lack of trust in CPD is justified," the report concluded.

It recommended creating a community safety oversight board and for the police superintendent to acknowledge publicly the CPD's history of discrimination and make a commitment to cultural change. It also called for the Independent Police Review Authority, which reviews misconduct cases, to be replaced with a civilian police board.

"The candor reflected in the task force report is refreshing," Chicago Urban League President Shari Runner said in a statement. "The fact remains that the complete implementation of its recommendations requires faith in a system that has not proven worthy."

"It also requires a mayor and a police department that feel compelled to make hard choices," Runner added. "It remains to be seen if the collective will of the people will move Mayor Emanuel to enact the task force's recommendations with the sense of urgency that the issues before us require."

Last December, Emanuel fired the police chief Gerry McCarthy in the aftermath of the McDonald scandal. Chicago's new police chief, Eddie Johnson, who is black, has promised to confront racism in the department head-on.

"We have racism in America. We have racism in Chicago," he told reporters after being sworn in last month. "So it stands to reason we would have some racism within our agency. My goal is to root that out."