Skip to main content

Chicago Police Corrupt, "Beset by Racism"

If you are not severely and wholeheartedly dealing with racism, you are not going to get to the bottom of this issue . . . CPD's own data gives validity to the widely held belief the police have no regard for the sanctity of life when it comes to people of color . . . at every step of the way, the police oversight system is riddled with legal and practical barriers to accountability.

April 13 Police Accountability Task Force News Conference,Police Accountability Task Force

[moderator: below is an excerpt from the Chicago Police Accountability Task Force Executive Summary released April 13, 2016.  The complete report can be found here.

How did we get to this point? Some Overarching Findings.

"If you are not severely and wholeheartedly dealing with racism, you are not going to get to the bottom of this issue."

We arrived at this point in part because of racism.
We arrived at this point because of a mentality in CPD that the ends justify the means.
We arrived at this point because of a failure to make accountability a core value and imperative within CPD.
We arrived at this point because of a significant underinvestment in human capital.


The Task Force heard over and over again from a range of voices, particularly from African-Americans, that some CPD officers are racist, have no respect for the lives and experiences of people of color and approach every encounter with people of color as if the person, regardless of age, gender or circumstance, is a criminal. Some people do not feel safe in any encounter with the police. Some do not feel like they have the ability to walk in their neighborhoods or drive in their cars without being aggressively confronted by the police. The consistent theme of these deeply-held beliefs came from a significant cross-section of people: men and women, young, middle-aged and older, doctors, lawyers, teachers and other professionals, students, and everyday workers. Regardless of the demographic, people of color loudly expressed their outrage about how they are treated by the police.

These encounters leave an indelible mark. Long after the officer moves on to chase the next call or make the next stop, the citizen involved remains affected and if the encounter involved physical or verbal aggression, even if there was no arrest, there is a lasting, negative effect.

The linkage between racism and CPD did not just bubble up in the aftermath of the release of the McDonald video. Racism and maltreatment at the hands of the police have been consistent complaints from communities of color for decades. And there have been many significant flashpoints over the years-the killing of Fred Hampton (1960s), the Metcalfe hearings (1970s), federal court findings of a pattern and practice of discriminatory hiring (1970s), Jon Burge and his midnight crew (1970s to 1990s), widespread disorderly conduct arrests (1980s), the unconstitutional gang loitering ordinance (1990s), widespread use of investigatory stops and frisks (2000s) and other points. False arrests, coerced confessions and wrongful convictions are also a part of this history. Lives lost and countless more damaged. These events and others mark a long, sad history of death, false imprisonment, physical and verbal abuse and general discontent about police actions in neighborhoods of color.


There are too many neighborhoods in Chicago that are devastated by crime and abject poverty. In those areas, aside from a recommitment to investments in jobs, education and many other important community anchors, those residents need the protection of the police. However, CPD's own data and other information strongly suggests that CDP's response to the violence is not sufficiently imbued with Constitutional policing tactics and is also comparatively void of actual procedural and restorative justice in the day-to-day encounters between the police and citizens. CPD's own data gives validity to the widely held belief the police have no regard for the sanctity of life when it comes to people of color.

Police Officers Shoot African-Americans At Alarming Rates: Of the 404 shootings between 2008-2015:

 74% or 299 African Americans were hit or killed by police officers, as compared with
 14% or 55 Hispanics;
 8% or 33 Whites; and
 0.25% Asians.

For perspective, citywide, Chicago is almost evenly split by race among whites (31.7%), blacks (32.9%) and Hispanics (28.9%).

Police Officers Disproportionately Use Tasers Against African-Americans: Of the 1,886 taser discharges by CPD between 2012 and 2015, African-Americans were the target of those discharges at a very high rate:

 76% or 1,435 African-Americans were shot with tasers;
 13% or 254 Hispanics;
 8% or 144 Whites; and
 0.21% or 4 Asians.

Beyond the use of force with guns and tasers, CPD's dependence on investigatory stops as an essential part of its policing strategy has only served to worsen already fractured community relations. Traffic Stops: In 2013,

 46% of 100,676 traffic stops involved African-Americans;
 22% involved Hispanics;
 27% involved Whites.

Moreover, black and Hispanic drivers were searched approximately four times as often as white drivers, yet CPD's own data show that contraband was found on white drivers twice as often as black and Hispanic drivers.

Other Street Stops: In the summer of 2014, CPD stopped more than 250,000 people-93.6 for every 10,000 City residents-in encounters not leading to arrests.16 (This figure dwarfs the number of stops by New York City police, which from 2011-2014, stopped anywhere between 1.6 and 22.9 people per 10,000.) Of those 250,000 people stopped by CPD in the summer of 2014,

 72% were African American;
 17% were Hispanic;
 9% were White; and
 1% were Asian.

A 2015 survey of 1,200 Chicago residents, ages 16 and older, also found significant racial disparities in the number of police-initiated stops and the perception of abusive police behavior.17 The survey found that almost 70% of young African-American males reported being stopped by police in the past 12 months, and 56% reported being stopped on foot. The survey found that "[m]ost people stopped by Chicago police are not ticketed, arrested or taken to a police station."  In addition, the survey established "large racial disparities in the use of force reported by respondents." The survey revealed that "15% of Blacks and 17% of Hispanics reported being shoved or pushed around, in contrast to 6% of Whites. [Blacks] were twice as likely as whites to be threatened by a weapon. Compared to whites, all other groups The overuse of investigatory stops has left a lingering, negative perception of the police in communities of color, in part because for people of color, a significant number of those stops also involved actual or threatened physical abuse.


Going back years, and continuing to the present day, CPD has missed opportunities to make accountability an organizational priority. Currently, neither the non-disciplinary interventions available nor the disciplinary system are functioning.

The public has lost faith in the oversight system. Every stage of investigations and discipline is plagued by serious structural and procedural flaws that make real accountability nearly impossible. The collective bargaining agreements provide an unfair advantage to officers, and the investigating agencies-IPRA and CPD's Bureau of Internal Affairs-are under-resourced, lack true independence and are not held accountable for their work. Even where misconduct is found to have occurred, officers are frequently able to avoid meaningful consequences due to an opaque, drawn out and unscrutinized disciplinary process. Complaints go uninvestigated. From 2011-2015, 40% of complaints filed were not investigated by IPRA or BIA.

Arbitrators reduce or void disciplinary recommendations. In 2015, arbitrators reduced disciplinary recommendations in 56.4% of cases and eliminated any discipline in 16.1% of cases. In total, arbitrators reduced or eliminated discipline in 73% of cases.

No risk management regarding lawsuits. There continues to be an unacceptably high number of lawsuits filed against the City and individual police officers every year. Despite this persistent problem, which results in the outlay of tens of millions of dollars every year, CPD does not employ a systematic tool for evaluating risk issues identified in lawsuits.

High number of CPD officers with significant CRs. The enduring issue of CPD officers acquiring a large number of Complaint Registers ("CRs") remains a problem that must be addressed immediately. From 2007-2015, over 1,500 CPD officers acquired 10 or more CRs, 65 of whom accumulated 30 or more CRs. It is important to note that these numbers do not reflect the entire disciplinary history (e.g., pre-2007) of these officers.

Any one of these metrics in isolation is troubling, but taken together, the only conclusion that can be reached is that there is no serious embrace by CPD leadership of the need to make accountability a core value. These statistics give real credibility to the widespread perception that there is a deeply entrenched code of silence supported not just by individual officers, but by the very institution itself. The absence of accountability benefits only the problem officer and undermines officers who came into the job for the right reasons and remain dedicated to serving and protecting. Sadly, CPD collects a significant amount of data that it could readily use to address these very troubling trends. Unfortunately, there is no systemic approach to addressing these issues, data collection is siloed and individual stakeholders do virtually nothing with the data they possess. Simply put, there is no ownership of the issue within CPD leadership or elsewhere, and thus there have been no substantive efforts to address these problems which continue to cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars each year. These figures demand immediate change.


The problems that the Task Force has identified have their origins in systemic failings going backmany years.

These failings touch:

 Recruitment of Young Officers. Chicago remains one of the most segregated cities in the country. CPD recruits from those segregated neighborhoods, but has fallen woefully short in acknowledging and addressing the fact that for many young recruits, the Training Academy may be their first substantive experience with someone who is of a different race or ethnicity.

Training Officers To Address Conscious and Unconscious Bias in the Daily Discharge of Their Responsibilities. While CPD has made significant strides in addressing cultural literacy in the Academy's Procedural Justice training and Crisis Intervention Team ("CIT") training, much more needs to be done. Fundamentally, there needs to be a real commitment to Constitutional policing strategies and tactics that strike the appropriate balance between keeping our communities safe without trampling on basic Constitutional and human rights. This important value must be embedded into all training, on an annual basis. Serving and protecting cannot mean that the rights of certain communities or individuals must be sacrificed.

 Absence of Other Investments. If there is a real commitment to cultural change within CPD, the balance will shift when there are adequate resources devoted to training. Currently, aside from annual firearms certification and sporadic training sessions, there is no mandatory training on any other topic.

This means that after an officer leaves the Academy, he can serve his entire career without ever receiving any annual, mandatory training of any kind. An astounding fact, particularly in light of recent sea changes in policing strategies and technology. What limited post-Academy training happens is primarily delivered through roll-call videos. Roll call was derisively described by one officer as "day care," meaning that officers slept, checked their smartphones or otherwise paid little attention to what was happening. Compounding this problem is that there are no metrics used to determine the level of comprehension or retention of the topic reflected in the video training. What also seems certain is that the level of attention given to the videos is not required to be reinforced with any training materials for the roll-call commander and rarely are officers afforded an opportunity to ask follow-up questions or otherwise access FAQs or other materials to reinforce the training. Also, CPD has a large portfolio of training videos that officers can access through a web-based portal, but no effort is made to even track the number of times officers access those training videos. And in recent memory, there has been no effort to survey officers to assess the areas in which they need training.

Right now, the community has no role in any of the training done either in the Academy or thereafter. Cities across the country recognize that community involvement in training is an important element and yet another way to bridge the gap between the police and the communities they serve. Also, service as an Academy instructor is not sufficiently valued within CPD and some instructors are teaching while under investigation for a range of alleged offenses. The Academy's physical space is also woefully inadequate to meet current and future needs. For example, the recent mandatory Taser training is being conducted in the hallways of the Academy because there is simply no other space available. The physical structure that houses the Academy is antiquated, cramped and cannot accommodate even current needs, let alone the increased training that will be necessary to make real cultural change. The constraints of the physical space negatively impact the effectiveness of training.

Other Key Findings By Working Group


The community's lack of trust in CPD is justified. There is substantial evidence that people of color-particuarly African-Americans-have had disproportionately negative experiences with the police over an extended period of time. There is also substantial evidence that these experiences continue today through significant disparate impacts associated with the use of force, foot and traffic stops and bias in the police oversight system itself. CPD is not doing enough to combat racial bias. Policies need further clarification, as it is not clear whether and when officers may use race as a factor when initiating stops. While CPD collects a fair amount of data, little is reported to the public. CPD still has significant work to do to diversify its ranks, especially at supervisory levels. And more needs to be done to train officers to acknowledge and address their biases and deploy officers who are culturally competent and have a proper understanding of the communities they are assigned to serve.

Historically, CPD has relied on the Community Alternative Policing Strategy ("CAPS") to fulfill its community-policing function. The CAPS brand is significantly damaged after years of neglect. Ultimately, community policing cannot be relegated to a small, underfunded program; it must be treated as a core philosophy infused throughout CPD.

CPD officers are not adequately equipped to engage with youth. The existing relationship between CPD and youth-particularly youth of color-is antagonistic, to say the least. Children in some areas of the City are not only being raised in high-crime environments, but they are also being mistreated by those who have sworn to protect and serve them.

Finally, CPD is not doing enough to protect human and civil rights. Providing arrestees access to counsel is a particular problem. In 2014, only 3 out of every 1,000 arrestees had an attorney at any point while in police custody. In 2015, that number "doubled" to 6. The City's youth are particularly vulnerable and often lack awareness of their rights.


Chicago's police accountability system is broken. The system is supposed to hold police officers accountable to the people they serve and protect by identifying potential misconduct, investigating it and, when appropriate, imposing discipline. But at every step of the way, the police oversight system is riddled with legal and practical barriers to accountability.

If you like this article, please sign up for Snapshot, Portside's daily summary.

(One summary e-mail a day, you can change anytime, and Portside is always free.)