“The problem isn’t the applicant pool. The problem is the process,” Deborah Witzburg, deputy inspector general for public safety, said of the CPD hiring disparity. Credit: Kelly Bauer/Block Club CHicago

CHICAGO — More than 20 people, including Chicago residents and activists, are part of a new group to review and recommend changes to the Police Department’s use of force policies.

The Community Working Group has been planned for months and begins work this week, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Police Supt. David Brown announced during a Monday morning press conference. The members will meet digitally once a week for the next two months to discuss, revise and offer recommended changes on use of force policies to the Police Department.

“CPD has heard the loud cries demanding police reform. We have heard from people who are hurt, angry and afraid,” Brown said during the press conference. “… We must do more to ensure that the voices of our neighbors and residents are being heard when it comes to developing policies that guide when and how we use force to keep Chicagoans safe.”

The working group is part of the city’s efforts to reform the Police Department and follow the consent decree with community input. Lightfoot has promised other reforms — like including community members in police training — amid protests over police violence after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

The consent decree was put in place after now-former Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke shot and killed Laquan McDonald.

Lightfoot said the working group includes more than 20 community members who represent a variety of lived experiences and neighborhoods.

Among them is co-chair Arewa Karen Winters, whose great-nephew, 16-year-old Pierre Loury, was shot and killed by a Chicago Police officer in 2016.

Winters criticized the Police Department’s use of force policies during Monday’s press conference, saying officers who commit violence in other cities are fired — but in Chicago, “they get 30 days desk duties and then” return to the streets. She vowed to be a voice for everyday Chicagoans in the working group.

“I am a representative of the community, of the people, because I loved someone I lost to police violence here in the city,” Winters said.

The group also includes activists from various organizations, students, residents and a representative of the American Civil Liberties Union. Deputy Chief Ernest Cato of the Police Department and Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th) will also be part of the group.

“We cannot wait another day to bring police reform; we cannot wait another month, and we cannot wait another year to bring police reform,” Taliaferro said during the press conference.

Once the members have met for eight weeks, they’ll send policy recommendations to the Police Department’s Executive Steering Committee. The members of that committee — including Brown and his deputy superintendents — will accept the recommendations or offer their own revisions to the working group’s chairs.

“Police officers can never do this alone,” Lightfoot said. “We will only have true public safety when the community is engaged and involved.”

Those looking for information on the Police Department’s use of force incidents and policy can go online.

There have been more than 16,500 reported use of force incidents since 2015, including 991 in 2020, according to the city’s data.

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