A year and a half after the U.S. Justice Department issued a report criticizing the Chicago Police Department’s use of force and racially discriminatory conduct, tensions between the police and community remain high in many neighborhoods. One major point of contention is a proposed $95 million police and fire academy. The planned 30-acre campus would include state-of-the-art training facilities and provide much-needed jobs to residents in a community struggling with poverty and gun violence, say supporters. The academy has become a flashpoint for many politicians and community members, who argue that the money would be better spent elsewhere, reports the Christian Science Monitor. The proposal for a new police academy was made after the police shooting of Laquan McDonald, a 17-year-old who was shot 16 times by an officer as he walked away from police in 2014.
The Chicago Police Department solves one in 20 homicides, and that rate has been declining. At the same time, the city has paid victims of police misconduct more than $50 million this year alone, a marked increase from last year. Now, the city is creating a consent decree for the police department, which would require adoption of suggested by DOJ. Local organizers say a new police academy on the West Side will not solve the underlying problems of policing and crime in Chicago. They point out that a new facility is not the same as better training and that the police department has already changed its curriculum, graduating three classes of officers who received what the mayor has called “best-in-class training.” Chicago spends 39 percent of its municipal budget on policing, while New York spends just eight percent and Los Angeles spends 26 percent, says the Center for Popular Democracy. This means the city has less funds for things like schools and social services.