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At Issue: The Mayor, the Feds, and Reform

Posted by Admin On January - 12 - 2017
From: Invisible Institute

By Curtis Black

Mayor Rahm Emanuel vowed to continue reform of the Chicago Police Department – which he characterized as a program of “training, technology, and transparency” – regardless of the outcome of a U.S. Department of Justice investigation of the department.

The DOJ is expected to issue its report on constitutional violations by CPD within the next week. Rather than negotiating a court-approved consent decree, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, the DOJ now aims at reaching an “agreement in principle” regarding reforms that are needed.

A City Hall source told the Sun-Times that the mayor was resisting pressure from DOJ to sign a letter of intent now to negotiate a consent decree, preferring to take a chance on lighter enforcement by the feds after Donald Trump is inaugurated as president.

President-elect Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons)

Trump’s attorney general designee, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, said he was not aware of the DOJ investigation into Chicago police and wouldn’t commit to moving forward with it, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois told WBEZ. In the past Sessions has voiced opposition to the use of consent decrees to reform police departments. As of Tuesday afternoon, the Sessions confirmation hearing was being live-broadcast online via multiple outlets.

Emanuel told the Sun-Times that since his own Police Accountability Task Force issued its report in April, he has been “systematically going through and putting in place the recommendations of change I think are important.”

Police Board president Lori Lightfoot, who chaired the task force, told Crain’s Chicago Business that Emanuel has implemented “only a few” of the 126 recommendations in the April report.

Laquan McDonald investigation continues

Police Supt. Eddie Johnson was among top brass who reviewed the October 2014 shooting of Laquan McDonald and agreed that it was justified, despite viewing video which subsequently resulted in murder charges against Officer Jason Van Dyke. That’s according to sworn testimony given during an Inspector General investigation of the follow-up to the shooting, the Chicago Tribune reported last month.

Johnson was deputy chief at the time. Then-Supt. Garry McCarthy was also in the group that reviewed the shooting.

Garry McCarthy and Martinez Sutton (City Bureau)

“Everyone agreed” that Van Dyke’s use of force was appropriate, Lt. Osvaldo Valdez told investigators, the Tribune reported. In addition, the lead detective on the case, David March, told investigators, “I was informed the entire command staff concurred with the findings and conclusions of my investigation.” March determined that Van Dyke’s actions were “absolutely proper.”

Johnson “strongly disagreed” with Valdez’s statement, a police spokesperson told the Tribune. He declined to elaborate.

The Tribune article reveals details of an IG investigation into the aftermath of the McDonald shooting. The IG’s report on that investigation has not been publicly issued.

The Tribune revealed that Inspector General Joseph Ferguson recommended firing Chief of Detectives Eugene Roy and Deputy Chief David McNaughton in addition to nine lower-ranking officers, but Johnson postponed acting in order to allow Roy and McNaughton to retire instead.

In addition, “multiple witnesses told the inspector general that detectives investigating the shooting refused to accept their accounts of what happened and threatened them,” the Tribune reported. To date, no disciplinary action for intimidating witnesses has been recommended.

One witness is suing the police department: Alma Benitez has charged she was detained and pressured to change her story, according to the Tribune.

Of 15 department members the IG recommended disciplining for their role in the investigation of McDonald’s shooting, Johnson has moved to fire only five, but the superintendent is still weighing discipline against four others, the Sun-Times reported.

Meanwhile, special prosecutor Patricia Brown Holmes has issued subpoenas to “police officers who either abruptly resigned, were fired, or were told to resign by police department brass,” according to the Sun-Times.

Watts cases reviewed

CPD’s general counsel is reviewing allegations around reversed convictions linked to corrupt former Sgt. Ronald Watts, WBEZ reports.  The review “could lead to other cases,” a department spokesperson said.

As detailed last year by Jamie Kalven at the Intercept, for over a decade Watts extorted protection money from drug dealers and framed those who wouldn’t go along.

WBEZ also reported that a South Side district commander was selected by Supt. Eddie Johnson for a top position after promoting one of Watts’ underlings, ten months after Watts was arrested for stealing from a government informant.

Fred Waller – named patrol bureau chief by Johnson last year – was commander of the Wentworth district when he nominated Alvin Jones for sergeant. Jones was named along with Watts in numerous misconduct complaints and worked on four Watts cases in which convictions were later overturned.

A department spokesperson said Waller didn’t know about the complaints and “potential wrongdoing.”

Police whistleblower Shannon Spalding scoffed at that claim, as did Lionel White, whose 2008 conviction following an arrest by Watts’ team was overturned last year. White alleges Jones beat him during his arrest – a claim supported by hospital records, according to WBEZ.

Supt. Johnson told WBEZ the department would “go back and take a look at” Waller’s promotion of Jones.

Shannon Spalding (Chicago Tonight)

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