CHICAGO — A federal judge has approved an extension of the Chicago Police Department’s consent decree — the series of court-mandated reforms born out of the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald in 2014 — from five years to eight.
The joint stipulation, submitted by the CPD and Illinois Attorney General’s Office, was approved by U.S. District Judge Robert Dow during a court hearing Friday afternoon.
“We are well-poised to accelerate the pace of compliance on more realistic timelines,” Dow said during Friday’s hearing. “Our work will not be finished until it ends in success. We will not rest until we get there.”
The stipulation said the additional three years were needed to allow the CPD to become fully compliant with the 799-paragraph agreement, entered in January 2019, between the police department and attorney general’s office.
“For many people in Chicago, the CPD’s compliance in the consent decree can’t come soon enough, and we agree,” Mary Grieb, of the attorney general’s office, said during Friday’s hearing. “The problems we are seeking to address have roots that run many decades deep … We will be here as long as it takes. The people of Chicago deserve nothing less.”
Speaking with reporters earlier this week, CPD leaders said there are three primary reasons for the multi-year extension: The addition of search warrants under the consent decree; a need to better organize the department’s technological infrastructure; and the pace at which middle managers are promoted within the CPD, particularly to the rank of sergeant.
“I think everyone understands the magnitude of what we’re trying to accomplish here,” Robert Boik, the CPD’s executive director of constitutional policing and reform, said earlier this week. “Culture change is the most difficult change any organization goes through. There’s a general recognition that it doesn’t happen overnight.”
Officers at the rank of sergeant are a crucial part of the consent decree. The U.S. Department of Justice investigated the CPD after the release of the Laquan McDonald shooting and found that “CPD’s pattern or practice of unconstitutional force is largely attributable to deficiencies in its accountability systems and in how it investigates uses of force, responds to allegations of misconduct, trains and supervises officers, and collects and reports data on officer use of force.”
The consent decree requires that, within the CPD’s 22 patrol districts, each sergeant oversees a maximum of 10 officers on any given day. CPD Supt. David Brown said this week that the department will need several more classes to graduate from the police academy before that ratio can be achieved.
Though search warrants will now be under the consent decree umbrella, the botched raid at the home of Anjanette Young in 2019 brought heavy scrutiny to the CPD’s search warrant practices. In May 2021, the department announced a revision to the search warrant policy “that strengthens the Department’s commitment to human dignity, respect and professionalism by improving its search warrant investigation and development procedures,” the the department previously said in a statement.
Boik said more money is needed for an “off-the-shelf product” that will address the lack of uniformity within the department’s technological infrastructure. Some of the money to pay for that new system —about $4 million — is already available in the budget of the Office of Public Safety Administration, but more will be needed.
The independent monitoring team, which oversees and grades the CPD’s compliance with consent decree obligations, is lead by former federal prosecutor Maggie Hickey. Every six months, the monitoring team releases a report that evaluates the CPD’s compliance to each paragraph in the agreement as “preliminary,” “secondary” or “operational.”
Preliminary compliance, effectively, means that a department policy has been written to address the mandate in a given paragraph of the consent decree. Secondary compliance signals that training on that policy has started. Operational compliance means that policy has been adopted as part of CPD’s day-to-day operations.
The independent monitoring team said last October that, in the most recent reporting period, the CPD had achieved preliminary compliance with 182 paragraphs in the consent decree. Secondary compliance was reached in 65 paragraphs, while operational compliance was seen in 19 paragraphs.