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Police Department Makes Progress On Reforms — But Still Needs New Foot-Chase Policy And Better Engagement, Court Monitor Says

An independent monitor reported Chicago Police reached levels of compliance in about 72 percent of its court-ordered reforms. Supt. David Brown called it "real and substantial progress."

CPD Supt. David Brown holds his cap down as he exits a press conference on public safety at Garfield Park Field House on Dec. 20, 2021.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — The police department missed a deadline to adopt a foot-pursuit policy and underachieved in an effort to increase community engagement, according to an independent monitor’s report on police reform. But the department made progress in officer training and other areas, it noted.

The monitor, which is helping police enact reforms to meet demands of a consent decree, released its most recent report Tuesday. It highlighted issues in the department, which has repeatedly failed to meet deadlines for enacting reforms.

In all, the city and the police reached levels of compliance on 380 of 523 paragraphs in the decree — just over 72 percent — for this most recent reporting period.

Last year, the Police Department met just 266 of the 507 agreed-upon deadlines — about 52 percent — for the reporting period.

Maggie Hickey, a former federal prosecutor serving as the court-appointed independent monitor, acknowledged “major changes” but added “additional reforms are necessary” for longstanding issues like community disconnect, lackluster data management and understaffing.

Hickey wrote that “any superficial attempts to cut corners are likely to cause further delay,” pointing to the the department’s “Positive Community Interaction” initiative that “does not have the fundamental data or community inputs” to ensure effective policing.

The report wrote that police data on foot-pursuits has “not been reliable” but that the department had “devoted significant attention” toward developing an improved foot-pursuit policy. After “countless discussions,” the police missed a Sept. 3 deadline to adopt a foot-pursuit policy.

That failure came just months after a controversial case where an officer chased Adam Toledo, a 13-year-old boy, and then fatally shot Toledo in Little Village. Two days later, another officer fatally shot Anthony Alvarez, 22, during a chase in Portage Park.

The department’s foot chase policy has long been criticized, with the feds in 2017 saying it was a major concern — but those cases, and especially the slaying of Toledo, brought on more scrutiny. The monitoring team formally recommended in March 2021 that the department adopt a foot chase policy.

The team wasn’t alone in its criticism: Mayor Lori Lightfoot said multiple times in April 2021 the department’s foot chase policy needed to be changed, saying it was “dangerous,” but she did not offer specific revisions.

The city’s original deadline for changing the foot chase policy was July 1, but that was extended until September due to the pandemic.

temporary, updated policy was released in May, but it still widely allows officers to run after people. It’s been criticized by activists who say the temporary policy didn’t fix glaring issues with foot chases.

Meanwhile, Hickey’s report cited some police reform accomplishments, including saying police “significantly improved” resources for training. The police department increased mandatory training hours to 40 in 2021, according to Supt. David Brown.

At a briefing previewing the report last month, Brown called this year’s compliance “real and substantial progress.”

“This is a significant challenge, by way of changing a culture of the second-largest law enforcement department in the country,” Brown said. “That’s really what we’re talking about.”

In March, the timeline for full compliance was pushed back by three years, extending the timeline to an eight-year window.

Brown said the extension is needed as the department grapples with technological difficulties and onboards more sergeants for compliance oversight.

“We believed five years wasn’t realistic, and eight years is more practical,” Brown said. “There’s more work to do.”

Brown said greater trust between the department and the community is “critical to success.”

“Community engagmeent is the common theme across the consent decree,” Brown said. “It’s one of those relationships we have to get right.”

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