BYP100 Op-ED by Cosette Hampton
The subtitle of the Police Accountability Task Force (PATF) report, recently released on April 13, 2015 states: Recommendations for Reform – Restoring Trust between the Chicago Police and the Communities they Serve. How can trust be “restored” when it did not exist? How can PATF’s recommendations really be trusted when not only was its’ constituency selected by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, but its’ head, Lori Lightfoot, is also the president of the Chicago Police Board itself? This is the same president that frequently cuts off the microphones of families and victims of police violence expressing their trauma in hopes of receiving justice, like she did to the daughters of Bettie Jones, a Black woman “accidentally” murdered by CPD and considered collateral damage. How can PATF speak of trust when it throughout all 183 pages of its’ expensive, deceptive and ineffective reforms, it only references Rekia Boyd two times, though her family and young Black organizers in Chicago have been demanding justice for her murder since 2012?
BYP100 is not fooled by fluff-filled recommendations coming from an illegitimate team of Rahm’s puppets. The majority of the efforts made to draft this report were of a marketing-oriented mindset, developed to trick the public into believing that we’re getting what we asked for in order to improve the Chicago Police Department’s reputation. This is not the first publicity stunt used to save face that we’ve seen. Although he remained untouched even after failing to take disciplinary action against Officer Dante Servin, the officer that murdered 22-year old Rekia Boyd, it took Mayor Emanuel one day to fire former CPD Superintendent Garry McCarthy to save face after the cover up of Laquan McDonald’s murder. We are not fooled by promises of restorative justice from a punitive institution. We are not fooled by promises to increase transparency, when regardless, transparency does not matriculate into accountability. We are not fooled by promises of accountability, when the people are not given the power to control whether or not they want police in their neighborhoods and if so, how they want them to operate as public servants.
This movement against the brutality of CPD and the state has been and continues to be led by young Black people in BYP100, Assata’s Daughters, F.L.Y., Black Lives Matter Chicago, Let Us Breathe, Fight for 15 and countless others. They have done the work of supporting the families of those who have been victimized by CPD, holding their own trauma caused by state violence and building the legitimacy of this movement, but are still being ignored by this Taskforce report. Though the Taskforce lifts up that it’s very creation and the heightened visibility of police violence is due to, “a significant and historic outcry,” that “brought people into the streets, on social media and other venues,” it still failed to mention how, under Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s orders, CPD has been unconstitutionally surveilling the people who made it happen.
Be it IPRA to CPIA, or CAPS to CEED, the PATF report is filled with name-changes and more money for current programs and new programs that increase loopholes and bureaucracy and that the most vulnerable population, young Black people, did not ask for. The PATF said they listened, but in reality what they did was use rhetoric that looks good on paper, but is actually faulty in implementation and contrary to what Black communities have stated their needs are.
- The community asked for a Civilian Police Accountability Council with hiring and firing power. PATF offered a “Community Safety Oversight Board” with audit and recommendation-making power only.
In response to protests against racial profiling and bias during “routine” stop-and-search and stop-and-frisk in the wake of statistics that show white drivers have illegal contraband twice as often as Black drivers, PATF recommended that CPD simply collect better data on investigatory stops and pat-downs. Essentially, PATF is saying the continuation of discriminatory stop-and-frisk is O.K., as long as detailed data is collected on each stop.
- The community asked for less police and more public resources that are human-capital building, offer youth safe alternative activities, and treat those living with mental illnesses. PATF recommended departments deploy more police into communities, though 20% of Chicagoans and only 6% of Black people believe CPD treats all citizens fairly.
The youth of the community said they are afraid of police and are traumatized by their negative experiences with the police, and would call them last in case of an emergency. PATF offered up more and better training as a solution though only 6.7% of 12,000 officers actually complete the Youth-Crisis Intervention trainings they already have.
- The community asked for police officers to be removed from schools to impair the school-to-prison pipeline. PATF disagrees with the community, and suggests that CPD officers that “fail expectations” in CPS schools should just be reassigned instead of being fired.
The community asked for mental health care centers and for mental health professionals to be first responders to domestic issues instead of police. PATF recommends instead that 911-dispatchers be trained to deploy CPD officers trained in Crisis Intervention, knowing that even these officers still have the ability to shoot, use tasers, and kill if they so choose, regardless of their expensive training.
- The community asked to be humanized through restorative justice practices instead of harmful policing strategies that contribute to the mass incarceration of Black people.
PATF recommended that instead of paying the certified restorative justice practitioners already working in schools and communities across the city, more money be directed to train officers (who still have arresting power) in restorative justice.
BYP100 knows that policing is inherently tied to a system of anti-Blackness that criminalizes and dehumanizes Black and Brown people, and thus police cannot practice restorative justice because they are tied to punitive-action through their racist, oppressive state-sanctioned positions.
PATF claims that police officers are here to serve and protect all people in Chicago, but they recommend yet another level of bureaucracy be instituted through the appointment of an Inspector General of Public Safety. If police were actually protecting us instead of hurting us, then PATF wouldn’t have recommended this new position.
- The community asked for a participatory budget where they can decide where and how they spend their tax dollars.
PATF instead uplifted CPD’s general order that, “…all persons in each area of the City share the common need for protection and service through objective and impartial law enforcement.” Prescribing police to communities by force should only be understood as an authoritarian response to a collective call for democracy. Rahm, Lori, and the PATF Board should not have the power to determine what each community’s needs are when the community knows the real solutions, but needs the resources to carry them out.
The major issue with the PATF report is that it develops new policies and reforms that have little likelihood of being successfully implemented. CPD already has multiple policies that supposedly protect the human rights of minorities and defend against ever-present racial bias, so changing the wording of a few of these policies will not change how police decide to carry on in their execution—a way that we know is racist, murderous and unchangeable without their complete elimination. PATF wants to funnel more money into CPD, though Chicago has already had to pay over $662 million on police misconduct settlements since 2004 and CPD already receives 41% of the City Budget. The Chicago Police Department does not deserve another dime of taxpayers dollars to harass, terrorize, brutalize and murder young Black youth. Time and time again, CPD has shown, historically and currently, that it cannot be trusted to have positive reform or actually be effective in protecting people from inter-community violence. It is nothing less than ignorant to continue to fund and prioritize an ineffective system over reforms and resources that Black communities have actually demanded.
We must continue to see through the shady efforts of the PATF to pacify us and coddle us into dormancy. We will not be fooled nor shaken, and we will continue the work of organizing for authentic Black liberation from state-violence instead of accepting this diluted version PATF is offering us. We will not allow the biggest, most violent gang in the city—CPD, to continue to trick our people.
In The News
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Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100) is an activist member-based organization of Black 18-35 year olds, dedicated to creating justice and freedom for all Black people. We do this through building a network focused on transformative leadership development, direct action organizing, advocacy and education using a Black queer feminist lens. We are an organization affiliated with the Black Youth Project.
www.byp100.org – @BYP_100 – facebook.com/BYP100