Consent Decree Hearing on Behalf of Chicago Women Take Action

JANE RAMSEY TESTIMONY ON BEHALF OF CHICAGO WOMEN TAKE ACTION ON THE CONSENT DECREE – OCTOBER 24, 2018 – FEDERAL COURT, WITH JUDGE DOW PRESIDING

Good morning. My name is Jane Ramsey, I am a resident of Chicago and here today speaking on behalf of Chicago women take action in support of a consent decree to reform the Chicago police department. Chicago Women Take Action (CWTA) works to secure the health and well-being of women, their families and communities.   Issues of gun violence prevention and police accountability are at the top of our agenda.

CWTA strongly supports provisions in the consent decree including those relating to the use of force and its reporting such as those that enhance the CPD’s de-escalation tactics, require officers to provide life-saving aid, improve oversight and training for foot pursuits, limit CPD use of tasers, restrict officers from shooting at moving vehicles and require ongoing publication of use of force data.

These provisions must support a change in the culture of the Chicago police force, infamous for its code of silence. The force must approach its vital responsibilities and roles squarely through the lens of protecting the community as they are sworn to do.   Too often we hear following a fatal shooting of an unarmed person that the officer’s decision to shoot was motivated by his fear for his life and determination to return home to his family at the end of the day. We, too, want the officers to be able to return home safely. However, we also must be assured that our loved ones lives are equally valued by the police, that they will be held safe, especially from those entrusted to protect them, and be able to return home to us at the end of the day.

The police culture will be positively impacted by the consent decree provisions. For example, provisions that enhance the CPD’s de-escalation tactics are crucial, particularly when we keep in mind that it has been reported that as many as ½ of the people killed by police are estimated to have a disability and ¼ of those killed have a mental illness. Officers must be trained to recognize when a person has a disability so they can communicate well and respond appropriately and respectfully. De-escalation techniques make the difference between life and death.

As well, while our country is in the middle of a reckoning regarding sexual assault and harassment, it is deeply discouraging and we believe improper that a Chicago police officer under investigation for sexual misconduct was promoted this past May from sergeant to lieutenant with an accompanying pay raise. The consent decree addresses matters of sexual misconduct including requiring officers to comply with CPD policies related to officer response to allegations of sexual assault, sexual abuse, stalking and domestic violence. Under the consent decree, investigations would be mandatory whenever an officer is accused of domestic violence, sexual misconduct or sexual assault. Public reports would be required for each such investigation.

The Fraternal Order of Police has stated they strongly object to the consent decree which they say is premature and politically motivated. We couldn’t disagree more. Chicago communities, particularly communities of color, have been subjected to police misconduct for decades. In fact, in 1972, 46 years ago Congressman Ralph Metcalf led a panel on police misconduct in Chicago following the death of dr. Daniel Claiborne, a 70 year old dentist who was arrested after suffering a stroke and consequently side swiping a parked car. A white police officer dragged Claiborne, who was black, from his car, arrested him for drunk driving and took him to a district station. He was placed in a cell and kept there, in a coma for more than five hours before his wife was notified. Claiborne died two weeks later due to the delay in medical treatment. After extensive hearings and research in June and July of 1972, the panel published its report. Its findings are strikingly similar to the recent police accountability task force report: the Metcalf panel found that residents of minority neighborhoods are frequently stopped and frisked without probable cause and subjected to false arrests and illegal searches of their cars and homes. They found that young people of color are often verbally abused by police. Quote: “few young Blacks and Hispanics have been spared the experience of having to swallow their pride and take a bullying insult from a police officer.” Further they found that seventy-five percent of those killed by Chicago police in 1969 and 1970 were black, though only a third of the city’s population was black. The recent police accountability task force found that seventy-four percent of those shot by Chicago police from 2008 through 2015 were black, though only a third of the city’s population was black. The Metcalf panel also found that complaints against officers for excessive force and other civil rights violations were almost never sustained by internal affairs. The current task force concluded similarly. 46 years have passed since the Metcalf commission sounded its alarm and yet these terrible realities have not changed.

In fact, over the past half century, incidents of police misconduct have been documented, have led to many tragic deaths, wrongful arrests and convictions. How premature is it for our communities to seek a consent decree when for decades , following the Metcalf commission, Police Commander Jon Burge and his fellow officers, tortured and falsely arrested many, resulting in their wrongful convictions, placement on death row, and subsequent awards by the city of Chicago in the tens of millions of dollars for Jon Burge and his cronies actions?

We were dismayed a few weeks ago when, upon Jon Burge’s recent death the fop repeated their defense and support for Burge and his actions as they did for Jason Van Dyke following his conviction of murder. What better way for the FOP to undermine trust with the communities than by expressing support for these notorious police officers.

It is clear from the CPD’s history and the many voluntary initiatives over decades to bring change, that the necessary lifesaving changes will not occur without a consent decree.

In conclusion, Chicago Women Take Action strongly calls upon the court to approve the consent decree to ensure that Chicago moves from its tortured painful and long history of police misconduct to a new era where police protection is provided fairly, impartially and wisely to all communities and residents, and where accountability, transparency, and impartial policing are assured. Our children, communities and families deserve no less. Thank you.Chair of the Gun


Jane Ramsey
Chicago Women Take Action Violence Prevention and Police Accountability Committee & Member of the Steering Committee