Police violations of Chicagoans’ civil rights are so routine and pervasive that the department must be put under federal court supervision, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan argues in a new lawsuit filed Tuesday.
Madigan’s suit comes eight months after Department of Justice investigators released the findings of their extensive investigation of the Chicago Police Department.
That report, pushed out the door in the closing days of the Obama administration, is the kind of document that traditionally forms the basis for DOJ lawyers to hammer out a “consent decree” with local officials. President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions are opposed to such oversight measures for police agencies, instead insisting that police misconduct is always isolated to individual cops and can therefore be cured with ad-hoc discipline.
Trump’s November victory effectively doomed hopes for a consent decree in Chicago. Sessions continues to undermine the existing consent decrees he inherited from the Obama administration. Such bargains are not a magical cure — internal police cultures are stubborn things not easily rooted out even through the concerted, court-backed efforts of local coalitions — but present the most direct path to change in cities where cops flout the Bill of Rights without consequence.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) is set to join Madigan in a press conference announcing the new lawsuit, according to the Sun Times. Madigan has been out in front of the mayor on police oversight issues for years, while Emanuel has long been criticized by those advocating reform in the Chicago Police Department.
Emanuel’s office knew of videos that proved police were lying about the circumstances surrounding Laquan McDonald’s death at the hands of Officer Jason Van Dyke in 2014, but with Emanuel’s re-election bid in its final months, the mayor’s office kept quiet about the tapes. They were only released after a judge ordered the city to publish them months after Emanuel had secured a second term.
In January, Emanuel suggested the city didn’t need a consent decree to effect change in its police department culture. He later backpedaled and committed to seeking to bring judicial authority into the reform process.