Successful Chicago Police Reform Could Depend On City’s Political Will


The promise of reforming the Chicago Police Department to rebuild community trust could largely depend on whether the political will exists to do it, reports the Christian Science Monitor. Mayor Rahm Emanuel spoke of “systematic challenges that will require sustained reforms” in firing Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy and creating an accountability task force to probe whether the department protects rogue cops at all costs. Similar task forces from Maryland to Washington State have led to significant reform, but they can also easily become empty vessels that do little. The difference is one of desire, says Charles Katz, a criminologist at Arizona State University and co-author of “The Police in America: An Introduction.”

“The question isn't so much that there are problems in the police force, but the lack of willingness to address those issues in a transparent manner, which allows the public to maintain faith that the police and the city are doing what they're supposed to be doing,” he says. A community police commission in Seattle became the first citizen task force ever to help formally write a police use-of-force policy, which included a strong de-escalation component,says criminologist Samuel Walker of the University of Nebraska in Omaha. A 10-year-old police accountability project in Albany, N.Y., mainly improved trustworthiness, because it forced the city to respond to allegations of police misconduct, even if unsubstantiated, said a report by the John F. Finn Institute for Public Safety. Chicago has often fought efforts to shine light on the police department.

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