Policy Recommendations for Police Accountability and Prevention of Gun Violence in Chicago

Everyone agrees that the current level of gun violence in Chicago (1,449 shootings and 254 deaths as a result of shootings to date [6/7/17])* is unacceptable and must be stopped. For the past year, the Chicago Women Take Action (CWTA) Gun Violence Prevention and Police Accountability Committee has done research and consulted with a variety of key community, civic, and governmental groups immersed in addressing the challenges in this area.

We considered findings generated by the U. S. Department of Justice, the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability, the Police Accountability Task Force, and the Comments on the Chicago Police Department’s Proposed Use of Force Guidelines prepared by Sheila Bedi at the MacArthur Justice Center at the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law and Craig Futterman at the University of Chicago Law School.

One key factor identified in this fight is restoring the trust and transforming the relationship between the community and the Chicago Police Department (CPD).

Therefore, CWTA makes the following recommendations on the local level:

Establish Community Focused ChicagoPolice Force

  • Strengthen the relationships between the community and police, rethinking and restructuring community and police relationships. Ensure that serving community is kept in the forefront of the mission.
  • Ensure a community-based focus as the core philosophy is infused throughout the culture and organizational structure of the Chicago Police Department (CPD).  One-to-one relationships between residents and police officers build trust, help identify problems, formulate solutions, and work toward solving them.

Overhaul CPD policies and practices related to the use of force taking into consideration proposed guidelines outlined by Sheila A Bedi of MacArthur Justice Center and Craig Futterman of University of Chicago Law School.

These proposed remedies seek to overcome systemic deficiencies, such as failure to set forth the legal limitations on physical interactions between police and civilians; sanctions regarding use of deadly force; transparency, prioritizing that new use of force policies are being followed by all CPD officers and supervisors and that annual reviews occur for necessary modifications that may be needed.

Establish an independent Community Oversight Board.

Make sure communities who are most affected by current accountability concerns are at the forefront of the development of a community oversight board.  Two key challenges will be determining what powers the oversight board should have and how members should be selected to ensure the board is diverse and representative of communities across Chicago.  Consideration should be given to creating neighborhood councils, playing a role in the selection of the police superintendent, in setting CPD policies and procedures, and in the appointment of the head of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability.

Implement a Hiring Practice That Ensures Diversity.

This process should include a goal that gets CPD to being more culturally reflective of the city it serves; hiring a Diversity Officer to ensure that the initiative moves forward in a timely manner; formally engages community members in the recruitment, screening, and hiring process; and screening applicants for implicit bias.

Create policies to dismantle the perceived police “code of silence,” enforce accountability, and establish disciplinary procedures in the Federation of Police contracts.  

Eliminate barriers that make it harder to identify potential misconduct, get rid of provisions that make it too easy for officers to lie about misconduct, provide easier access to records that could help uncover information about misconduct or patterns of misconduct, increase transparency and public trust, and strengthen the consequences officers face for misconduct and place some of the burden on officers who have been found guilty of misconduct.

CWTA is very aware that there are longer-term solutions that must be met to end gun violence and its effects on the community. It is essential that these be addressed as well. Additional recommendations include:

Increase public and private investment in economically disadvantaged communities to generate sustainable employment.

As a recent youth employment program suggested, “Nothing stops a bullet like a job.” That 25% of black 20- to 24-year-olds in the Chicago area are disconnected from work or school is simply not acceptable.

Commit the funds necessary to keep youth in school and provide alternative educational pathways for those who have left.

Address the lack of counselors and other support staff in CPS schools that have been replaced by police officers, increasing the number of youth incorporated in the school-to-prison pipeline.  Provide deep and solid supports for well-being including high-quality, goal-oriented education, arts programming, athletics, and recreational facilities.

In addition to in-school supports, provide abundant after-school and evening programs for youth and adults, mindful of the times when most violence occurs.

Institute fully resourced mental health supports for people suffering from the effects of violence.

We cannot stress forcefully enough the need to set measurable benchmarks to achieve the above goals and report back to the community on progress in doing so.

On the statewide level, CWTA recommends the following:

Reduce illegal handgun availability by requiring all Illinois gun dealers to be licensed. Pass  SB1637 in the next session of the legislature.

Focus enforcement on “bad-actor” dealers.

A 2014 report from the University of Chicago Crime Lab noted that 20 percent of the 3,000 guns recovered by Chicago police from crime scenes were from four firearms stores in the Chicago area.

These CWTA recommendations are designed to support efforts underway to prevent gun violence, create police accountability, and broaden measures by citizen action and the City, State and Federal governments to address causes and impacts of violence. Toward that end, we asked several people to speak and others to endorse these recommendations, and that list is in progress now.  

Chicago Women Take Action
Gun Violence Prevention
and Police Accountability Committee
June 12, 2017

Jane Ramsey, Chair

Lucy Ascoli, Esther Bloch, Ann Breen-Greco, D. Clancy, Shanti Elliot, Barbara Engel, Caroline Gibbons, Donna Gutman, Judith Kossy, Betty Magness, Hedy Ratner, Nancy Stevenson, Rev. Janette Wilson, Marilyn Katz, Ex Officio

CWTA (chicagowomentakeaction.com) is an ad hoc group of women activists representing a variety of organizations who are united in the commitment to achieve women’s leadership and economic and social equity.  Among other issues, we work to secure the health and well being of women, their families, and communities.  In 2014, we crowd-sourced a Progressive Women’s Agenda for Change and held the first mayoral forum for the 2015 mayoral race.