Police Misconduct

Landmark Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against the City of Chicago Alleging Racially Discriminatory Policing and Violent Police Abuse

A class action lawsuit seeking federal court oversight of the Chicago Police Department’s (“CPD’s”) operations has been filed on behalf of thousands of individuals, predominately Blacks and Latinxs, who have been subjected to the CPD’s policy and practice of using force in racially discriminatory and often brutal ways. Also joining the lawsuit are a number of community-based organizations that are deeply-rooted in Chicago’s Black and Latinx communities, including Black Lives Matter-Chicago, Blocks Together, the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, Justice for Families, Women’s All Point Bulletin, Network 49, and the 411 Movement for Pierre Loury.

This lawsuit was filed months after U.S. Attorney General Jefferson Sessions announced that he would not support litigation that would subject police departments to federal court oversight and on the heels of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s announcement that the City hopes to execute an out-of-court settlement agreement with Sessions’ U.S. Department of Justice. Prior to Sessions’ appointment as the U.S. Attorney General, the Department of Justice had signed an “agreement in principle” with the City of Chicago to subject the CPD to federal court oversight. Now, the Plaintiffs seek a federal court order that would finally transform the CPD and end the Department’s racist and violent policing practices.

The lawsuit details the history of discriminatory policing in the City of Chicago and describes how the CPD – in the absence of federal court oversight – has proven time and time again that it is incapable of ending its own regime of terror, brutality, and racism. The complaint alleges that the CPD violates the Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, as well as under the Illinois Civil Rights Act.

News release HERE »

PDF of Campbell v. City of Chicago HERE »

Updated 06/14/17

CPD’s Latest Draft of Use of Force Policy Is Out of Step with Best Practices; Sustained Monitoring of Federal Consent Decree is Needed

The second draft of the Chicago Police Department’s use of force policy is out of step with best practice in policing and underscores the need for “sustained external monitoring and oversight provided by a federal consent decree,” according to Sheila A. Bedi, Attorney with the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center and Associate Clinical Professor of Law at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law and Craig Futterman, Clinical Professor of Law, University of Chicago Law School.

“Our analysis of the new draft use of force policy and the Reform Framework underscore the need for the Chicago Police Department to be subject to a consent decree that is informed by the communities who have borne the brunt of CPD’s brutality over the decades, monitored by an independent, credible third party and rigorously enforced,” they wrote in comments submitted to CPD. “Even model use of force policies cannot by themselves address the years-long pattern of excessive force and civil rights violations in Chicago. The CPD has long maintained paper policies, such as those for the use of in-car cameras, which have never been enforced. The CPD and the Mayor have proved that they are incapable of putting an end to their pattern of ongoing civil rights violations on their own. The problems and culture that have facilitated police abuse are too entrenched and run too deep. It is critically important that we do not waste this historic opportunity for real and enduring change.”

Bedi and Futterman’s comments stated: “It is also long past time for half measures. Nothing short of the sustained external monitoring and oversight provided by a federal consent decree will bring the change that the people of Chicago and their officers need and deserve.”

Full text of comments submitted by Bedi and Futterman HERE »

Updated 03/17/17

CPD’s proposed reforms fail to make use of force against civilians a last resort 

The Chicago Police Department’s new proposed use of force guidelines “fall far short of remedying the systemic deficiencies that have long plagued the CPD,” according to two civil rights law professors and critics of CPD’s history of excessive use of force against civilians.

Several deficiencies in the proposed use of force guidelines are explained in comments submitted to CPD by Sheila A. Bedi, Associate Clinical Professor of Law, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law and attorney with the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center, and Craig Futterman, Clinical Professor of Law, University of Chicago Law School, and founder of the Civil Rights and Police Accountability Project at the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic.

News release HERE »

Full comments submitted to CPD by Bedi and Futterman HERE »

Updated 12/06/16

MacArthur Justice Center and Mandel Legal Aid Clinic Propose Model Ordinance to Remake Chicago Police Oversight

Chicago’s system of police accountability has failed by every measure and has enabled a relatively small portion of the Chicago Police Department to abuse Chicago residents with near impunity. The current police oversight mechanisms are wholly unaccountable to the communities most likely to experience abusive police tactics. There is little to no transparency in the system and no independence from the Mayor’s Office, City Council, or law enforcement. Investigations into allegations of misconduct have been less than rigorous and biased towards police officers. There is no overarching entity that evaluates systemic policy and practice issues related to police operations.

The omnibus ordinance addresses these deficiencies by establishing three separate oversight entities that will work together to provide rigorous, fair, accountable and transparent police oversight. The ordinance is grounded in national best practice and informed by the experiences of communities most impacted by police abuse. It also borrows from other jurisdictions that have recently underwent reform under the supervision of the U.S. Department of Justice, including New Orleans, Newark, Seattle, Cleveland and Albuquerque.

PDF Police Oversight Omnibus Ordinance - Summary and Analysis

PDF Police Oversight Ordinance

Special Prosecutor Sought to Investigate Police Misconduct in Aftermath of Shooting Death of Laquan McDonald. Read our news release and complaint.

A coalition of elected leaders, community activists and prominent attorneys filed a petition Tuesday asking the Cook County Circuit Court to appoint a special prosecutor to take over the prosecution of Chicago Police Officer Jason D. Van Dyke for the 2014 shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald and to investigate whether Chicago police officers intentionally covered up the truth about the shooting.

The petition, which was filed Feb. 16, 2016, argues Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez’s political alliance with the police union creates a conflict of interest and disqualifies her from prosecuting Van Dyke and maintains her “track record has undermined her credibility, created a crisis of confidence in her and her office, and created the appearance that this State’s Attorney cannot be trusted to zealously and effectively prosecute Office Van Dyke.”

The petitioners argue Alvarez should be disqualified from any involvement in ongoing or future investigation and prosecution of Chicago police officers engaged in possible misconduct in the aftermath of the McDonald shooting on Oct. 20, 2014.

Complaint asks U.S. Department of Justice to focus its investigation of the Chicago Police Department on the Independent Police Review Authority.  Read our news release and complaint.  

The Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center is committed to addressing problems of police misconduct through systemic litigation. The Justice Center has been at the forefront of the nationally publicized cases of torture by former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and his men. Under the leadership of Center Director Locke Bowman, the Justice Center has tirelessly represented men who confessed to crimes after being tortured by Burge and other officers at the infamous Area 2 Chicago Police headquarters, led the charge to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate these cases, and continues to fight for justice for the still-imprisoned Burge victims.

The Justice Center fights for the rights of persons in police custody to have access to counsel and to be free of physical and psychological coercion to speak, in derogation of the rights secured by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.