Monday, September 04, 2017
"By The Editorial Board, www.nytimes.com
September 4th, 2017
The wrenching shift in the Justice Department’s approach to criminal justice under President Trump is playing out painfully as Chicago tries to rein in a scandalous police culture that tolerated officers routinely abusing and killing residents, particularly African-Americans and Latinos.
Two developments last week underlined the need for the firm federal oversight of police misconduct from which Attorney General Jeff Sessions had retreated.
In the first, a federal jury handed down a rare criminal conviction of a Chicago policeman. The officer, Marco Proano, was found guilty of using excessive force in violating the civil rights of six black teenagers chased down in a stolen car. He fired 16 shots at them in nine seconds, wounding two as they cowered in the car. A police video was crucial to the conviction, which critics say might have never have happened in city courts, long accused of protecting the police.
In the second, the Illinois attorney general, Lisa Madigan, stepped forward and filed an unusual federal lawsuit against Chicago seeking a court-enforced consent decree to reform police training and oversight. The state’s lawsuit would do what the Trump administration had backed away from — court-enforced controls on the police that the Obama administration engineered through consent decrees in troubled communities from Ferguson, Mo., to Cleveland.
In the Obama administration’s waning days, the city agreed to seek a court decree with federal officials. But once Mr. Sessions became attorney general, he spoke skeptically of consent decrees and staunchly defended the police. With Mr. Trump in office, Mayor Rahm Emanuel shifted, insisting the city could achieve reform on its own, overseen by a monitor, not a federal judge.
Lisa Madigan, Illinois’s attorney general, filed a federal lawsuit against Chicago seeking a court-enforced consent decree to reform police training and oversight. Credit Rich Hein/Chicago Sun-Times, via Associated Press
Photo by: Rich Hein/Chicago Sun-Times, via Associated Press
In July, Ms. Madigan wisely dismissed as “ludicrous” the idea that any reform would be possible without the muscle of court enforcement. When she announced last week that the state had to act, the mayor was at her side, presumably back on the side of effective reform.
Ms. Madigan asserted that she was compelled to act “in the absence of a committed Justice Department.” The goal, she said, is to repair the “broken trust” between the city and black and Hispanic Chicagoans by enforcing “safe and constitutional police practices.”
The need for overhauling the Chicago force was documented last January in a scathing report after a yearlong study by Justice investigators that detailed cases of abuse in “a culture in which officers expect to use force and not be questioned about the need for or propriety of that use.”
The Justice Department has reacted with simplistic echoes of the Trump campaign theme about “rampant" crime and the need for “proactive policing” in Chicago. Unfortunately, it did not point to the federal government’s obvious responsibility to help the city protect civil rights."
Taking On Chicago’s Police - The New York Times