Published on Portside (https://portside.org)
Emanuel on Hot Seat as BLM Lawsuit Seeks Federal Court Oversight of CPD
June 14, 2017
Jon Seidel, Fran Spielman and Mitch Dudek
Wednesday, June 14, 2017
In the wake of Mayor Rahm Emanuel backing off his pledge that the federal courts monitor reforms to the embattled Chicago Police Department, members of the group Black Lives Matter Chicago and other organizations have filed a lawsuit seeking federal court oversight of the department.
“For years and continuing to this day, the City of Chicago has employed a pattern and practice of excessive force that adversely affects all people in Chicago, but that disproportionately and intentionally targets black and Latino individuals,” according to the lawsuit filed Wednesday morning. “It is clear that federal court intervention is essential to end the historical and on-going pattern and practice of excessive force by police officers in Chicago.”
By alleging a “pattern and practice” of such behavior, the lawsuit seeks to establish that the department’s discrimination is systemic and not just a matter of separate incidents limited to specific individuals.
“The city continues to pay out tens of millions of taxpayer dollars each year as a result of its pattern and practice of police brutality,” the lawsuit states. “The city has proven that it would rather pay for its officers’ continued use of excessive force than remedy the underlying problems giving rise to the abuses in the first place.”
The lawsuit comes five months after the Justice Department issued a detailed report, based on a lengthy investigation that found widespread constitutional violations by Chicago Police.
“CPD officers abide by an ingrained code of silence and ‘warrior mentality’ wholly disconnected from the policies that exist on the books,” lawyers wrote in the lawsuit. “The ‘thin blue line’ reigns supreme. The city of Chicago has proven time and time again that it is incapable of ending its own regime of terror, brutality and discriminatory policing.”
University of Chicago law professor Craig Futterman, lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said Emanuel has shown through his actions that he is incapable of presiding over sustained change in the Chicago Police Department without the “hammer” of federal court oversight.
Futterman and other lawyers who helped bring the lawsuit accused Emanuel of trying to strike a “back-room deal” with the U.S. attorney general and said Chicago’s communities are trying to do what the Justice Department “doesn’t have the will to do.”
They also said they were girding for a long legal fight, doubtful that Emanuel would agree to a federal monitor.
Futterman and other lawyers who helped bring the lawsuit came together with some of the plaintiffs for a press conference Wednesday afternoon at the Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law. They accused Emanuel of trying to strike a “back-room deal” with the U.S. attorney general and said Chicago’s communities are trying to do what the Justice Department “doesn’t have the will to do.”
That’s why the lawsuit was filed so early, instead of attempting to negotiate with the Emanuel administration.
“This is the same mayor who, when Laquan McDonald was killed and for more than a year after, was committed to denial — the story of a justified police shooting — and fought for more than a year to hide the truth from the public,” Futterman said.
Futterman urged the mayor to enter into “a binding agreement with us” to negotiate federal court oversight. He called it the “same agreement” Emanuel made with former President Barack Obama’s U.S. Justice Department after the DOJ issued its scathing indictment of the police department days before Obama left office.
“To think that the people of Chicago who have been living this reality are going to trust a handshake deal between the mayor and Jefferson Sessions who say, ‘We got this’ is utterly crazy.”
Earlier this week, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan joined the call for federal court oversight, culminating in the hiring of a federal monitor to ride herd over the Chicago Police Department and enforce reforms on a strict timetable, no matter the cost.
“I’ve seen over the years how important a consent decree can be to keep everyone and everything on track. Even very detailed plans for change bump up against resource constraints. And it’s necessary to have a federal judge to keep it moving,” Madigan told the Chicago Sun-Times.
At a news conference on Wednesday, Chicago’s corporation counsel said the lawsuit needs to be examined more closely but said, “We all agree that reform is necessary here, an independent set of eyes is necessary and transparency is key.”
Corporation Counsel Edward Siskel said he’d yet to review the entire lawsuit and was unable to comment on specifics.
“The substance of the reforms that we are all trying to achieve is not really in question,” Siskel said. “It is matters of process that we are discussing.”
Police Supt. Eddie Johnson added, “We are reforming and will continue to reform.”
Pressed on why the city was opposed to federal oversight, Siskel responded: “We are exploring different pathways to reform. There are different ways to achieve that independent set of eyes.”
Under a “memorandum of agreement” — which city attorneys are currently hammering out with folks from the Department of Justice — whoever is appointed to the monitor position would be charged with keeping the public informed on progress and have the ability to sue the city to enforce measures laid in the agreement.
Emanuel recently announced plans to avoid court oversight by having an independent monitor oversee department reforms. The lawsuit comes amid a chorus of people calling for a federal judge to oversee reforms sparked by a Justice Department review of the police department under Obama’s administration. They include members of the ACLU and Madigan.
Emanuel has refused to publicly respond to pressure from Madigan to honor his January promise to agree to court oversight over the embattled Chicago Police Department.
In the lawsuit, six individuals are named as plaintiffs; all allege they were subjected to excessive force by Chicago Police; four of them also allege false arrest. All are black.
Named as defendants in the lawsuit are the city of Chicago and 15 individual police officers.
Besides Black Lives Matter, the other groups identified as plaintiffs are the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, Blocks Together, Justice for Families — Black Lives Matter Chicago, Network 49, Women’s All Points Bulletin and the 411 Movement for Pierre Loury.
Loury was 16 when he was shot and killed by Chicago Police last year. His mother has filed a lawsuit over his death, identifying the two officers she said were involved, but they are not among the defendants in the lawsuit.
One of the plaintiffs, Chante Linwood, a DJ, told reporters she got into an altercation with police while trying to scope out a Gold Cost night club where she hoped to find work. The 28-year-old said the security guard refused to let her in and summoned the police. The lawsuit indicates she was refused entrance for “improper footwear.”
“Two officers came over and, before I knew it, I was slammed into the side of the building,” Linwood said. “My hair was pulled and I was shoved to the ground. The officers put their knees on my back and yanked my shoulders from my back to handcuff me. I couldn’t lift my arms for days afterward.”
Linwood said she was pregnant with her youngest child at the time and suffered from fibromyalgia. She said she was charged with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. While in lockup, officers refused to let her use the phone to call a babysitter and told her she had no business being at the club if she was a mother, according to the lawsuit.
Andrew Stroth, another lawyer representing the plaintiffs, said federal oversight of the Chicago police could actually save the city money. It is currently doling out millions to settle police misconduct cases.
Source URL: https://portside.org/2017-06-14/emanuel-hot-seat-blm-lawsuit-seeks-federal-court-oversight-cpd
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