The city of Chicago and the U.S. Justice Department have negotiated a draft agreement that calls for an independent monitor to oversee police department reforms, though it is unclear if there will be court oversight in the future, the Associated Press reports. A monitor would be appointed if DOJ gives final approval to the “memorandum of agreement,” which includes a framework for adopting and implementing reforms that federal officials said were needed in the Chicago Police Department, said an official in Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration. The official said in an email that the administration is hopeful the agreement “will be executed soon,” adding that the action will “guide future reforms for years to come.” Just before President Donald Trump’s inauguration, the Justice Department issued a scathing report on civil rights abuses by Chicago’s police department over the years. It found that institutional problems had led to serious civil rights violations, including a tendency to use excessive force. The investigation began in 2015 after the release of dashcam video showing a white officer shooting a black teenager, Laquan McDonald, 16 times.
The proposed agreement suggests the Trump administration may take a different approach from that of President Barack Obama’s, which typically took a city’s negotiated plan to a federal judge to make it legally binding in the form of a “consent decree.” Under Obama, it was the court that also appointed a monitor, answerable to the court, to ensure police complied with the agreed upon reforms. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has expressed reservations about consent decrees, saying they can unfairly malign all officers for the actions of some bad apples.