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By the Numbers: Chicago’s Police Accountability Problem

What the mayor’s Police Accountability Task Force found, and what it proposes to repair the broken trust between the people and police

Task force chair Lori E. Lightfoot at a news conference to address the report’s recommendations   Photo: Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune

The Chicago Police Department is facing a long road to redemption.

The numbers in the Police Accountability Task Force’s report released Wednesday tell an ugly story of racial bias and systemic failure. The Chicago Tribune rightly describes the 190-page report as “scathing,” but it also offers some hope with a series of proposed solutions intended to restore community relations and ensure police accountability.

The task force was established in the wake of the controversy surrounding the Laquan McDonald. Its findings, though, go far beyond the untimely death of the 17-year-old and the outrage that followed, to excoriate long-standing policies that have resulted in the police accountability crisis the city faces today. As Mayor Rahm Emanuel said at a press conference Wednesday, “Do we have racism? We do. The question is, what do we intend to do about it?” Here are some of the solutions proposed by the report.

Racist Policing

NUMBERS: A 2015 survey found that 70 percent of African Americans reported being stopped by police in the last 12 months, and 15 percent reported being shoved or pushed around—that’s compared to only 6 percent of white respondents. The survey also found African Americans were twice as likely as whites to be threated with a weapon.

RECOMMENDATION: Start a process of reconciliation to publicly acknowledge CPD’s history of racism and to commit to making a change. The task force also calls for the establishment of a Deputy Chief of Diversity and Inclusion in CPD.

NUMBERS: Since 2008, CPD officers have been involved in 404 shootings—299 cases, or 74 percent, involved an African American who was wounded or killed compared to 33 cases, or 3 percent, involving a white person.

RECOMMENDATION: To further improve community relations, the task force proposes Community Empowerment and Engagement Districts for each of the 22 police districts to facilitate tailored community policing strategies and partnerships. The task force also identified the need to improve training with respect to appropriate police engagement with youth.

Officer Misconduct

NUMBERS: Between 2007 and 2015, more than 1,500 CPD officers received 10 or more complaints—of those, 65 officers received at least 30 complaints.

RECOMMENDATION: Require CPD to be more transparent by publicly releasing incident information on arrests, weapon use by officers and disciplinary cases. The task force also suggests creating a hotline to file complaints and a third-party system for following up. 

NUMBERS: In 2015, 13 CPD officers were enrolled in early intervention programs geared toward officer performance and conduct—that’s an improvement since 2013 when zero officers were enrolled, but it is a significant drop since 2007 when 276 officers participated in either the Behavioral Intervention System or Personnel Concerns program. 

RECOMMENDATION: CPD already collects a range of data related to officer performance; supervisors just aren’t required to use that data to analyze their officers or to intervene in cases of misconduct. The task force proposes using such data to create an Early Intervention System that would help CPD identify officers with problems before they reach a point of no return.

NUMBERS: Between 2011 and 2015, 40 percent of complaints brought before the Independent Police Review Authority were never fully investigated—only 7 percent were sustained.

RECOMMENDATION: Replace the Independent Police Review Authority (which has come under fire for being too beholden to CPD and the mayor’s office) with a transparent Civilian Police Investigative Agency to investigate cases of police misconduct, even without sworn complaints. The task force also recommends designating an Inspector General for Public Safety, who would independently monitor CPD, including for patterns of racial bias.

NUMBERS: Officers can wait 24 hours before providing a statement after a shooting—they can also amend their statements after reviewing video or audio evidence. The task force asserts that this policy has contributed to the institutional “code of silence.”

RECOMMENDATION: Change provisions in collective bargaining agreements that impede accountability, including by eliminating the ability to change a statement after reviewing evidence and by allowing anonymous complaints.

Civil Rights Violations

NUMBERS: Six out of every 1,000 people arrested in 2015 had an attorney present while in police custody—that means more than 99 percent of arrestees did not have access to counsel at the time

RECOMMENDATION: Adopt a citywide protocol allowing individuals placed under arrest to make a phone call to an attorney or family member within an hour. Because juveniles were found to be particularly vulnerable, the task force also recommends citywide “Know Your Rights” training for youth.


NUMBERS: Laquan McDonald was fatally shot by CPD Officer Jason Van Dyke on Oct. 21, 2014. The dash-cam video was not released to the public until 399 days later. Critics have said the impending video release forced prosecutors to charge Van Dyke with first-degree murder.

RECOMMENDATION: The 13-month delay in releasing this video and the fact that the release only happened as a result of a court order exposed systemic institutional failures, according to the task force. Therefore, the report calls for the nation’s first video release policy for officer-involved shootings and the expansion of CPD’s body-cam pilot program.

Mental Health Training

NUMBERS: Only 15 percent of CPD officers have taken a 40-hour course to become Crisis Intervention Team-certified. The department’s CIT program has been available for more than a decade. The task force believes there are not enough CIT-certified officers to respond to all mental health situations.

RECOMMENDATION: Expand the Crisis Intervention System for CPD officers and other first responders. The task force also recommends creating a CPD Mental Health Critical Response Unit specifically responsible for mental health crisis response, training and support.


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