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Chicago Police Reforms Coming Within 90 Days, Mayor Lightfoot Promises

The city has been rocked by the pandemic, protests, looting and violence in recent days.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot presides over City Council at City Hall in February 2020.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — Mayor Lori Lightfoot promised reforms to the Chicago Police Department within 90 days during a Tuesday night speech.

Lightfoot gave the speech, a State of the City address, as Chicago is rocked by protests, looting, violence and the coronavirus pandemic. The West and South sides have been hit particularly bad in recent days.

But the mayor called upon Chicagoans to come together and outlined plans to make reforms to the Police Department and help businesses so they can rebuild.

“Over the last few days, like many of you, I have experienced a series of difficult emotions: anger, frustration, despair, intense physical and emotional fatigue, and, yes, also hope,” Lightfoot said.

Lightfoot said her heart broke when she saw video of Minneapolis Police officers killing George Floyd. The murder brings to mind Chicago’s history of violence against Black people, she said, highlighting the killings of Laquan McDonald, Quintonio LeGrier and Rekia Boyd by local police.

“And if we’re being honest, it goes back at least as far as the Red Summer in 1919, and many other events before and since,” Lightfoot said. “It’s about a fear that I confess I still feel, when I think about how the world will see
my young Black daughter.”

Because of that violent history against Black people, Lightfoot stands with people who are “sick and tired of the lack of fundamental change,” she said.

But the mayor said she would “draw a sharp line between the righteous and the wrong,” saying she and others should not “conflate legitimate First Amendment expression with criminal conduct,” alluding to people who have looted and vandalized while others try to peacefully protest.

People need solutions to address their pain and frustration, she said, and that will start with police reform and accountability.

“… Yes, we are under a consent decree, but the process of reform has been too slow and too narrowly focused,” Lightfoot said.

The city will look up to speed up reform, with Lightfoot promising Police Supt. David Brown will enact these measures within 90 days:

  • “Better and different training for officers which brings the community into the academy as teachers.” Officers should receive training from members of the community on the history of the neighborhoods where they will serve. Groups like My Block, My Hood, My City could be used to teach officers so they “understand the history of the people they are required to serve and protect.”
  • “Implementing a real officer wellness program and completing the Officer Support System/Early Intervention System pilot that provides support for officers in crisis, improving our peer support program and providing counselors to those in need.”
  • Mandating crisis intervention and procedural justice training for all officers. Providing real tools for officers and community members to deescalate challenging situations.”
  • “Establishing a new recruit program on police-community relations and community policing with views from the community about what works.”

Businesses — already struggling due to the coronavirus pandemic and now hit by vandals and looters — need help, as well, Lightfoot said.

The city has created a $10 million fund for those businesses that have been targeted in recent days. The funds will go to businesses citywide, Lightfoot said, but “with an equity weighting that focuses on South and West sides.”

The city is putting $10 million into the fund, but Lightfoot said she hopes other organizations and individuals will donate.

The city will also push insurance companies to “start cutting checks,” Lightfoot said, and there will be an announcement on insurance support for businesses soon.

Finally, Lightfoot said Chicago needs “comprehensive investment in mental health resources and health care.” That will come, in part, from $1.2 million the city is investing at the community-level to expand access to care for people who are experiencing serious mental illness, a move Lightfoot announced in May.

The city is also investing in a telemedicine platform so people can seek mental health treatment from home.

Ultimately, Lightfoot said she hopes the changes would help Chicago become a more inclusive and equitable city.

“We will clean up these broken windows, but we can’t stop there. We must also clean up and repair our broken systems,” Lightfoot said. “Because as we repair this damage, as we mend these broken windows, and clean our streets, we have an opportunity to ensure that we do the same for those wounds that are not immediately visible, for the harm that has been done over many generations, and for the cracks in our society that we have ignored.”

Watch the speech here:

Read the full speech here:

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