In her second move for police reforms in the past few weeks, Mayor Lightfoot launched the new working group Monday. It is comprised of members of various community organizations, lawyers, students and residents, who, along with senior police staff, will review and make recommendations for how the use of force policy should be revised.
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The announcement comes in the wake of hundreds of complaints against police, many stemming from recent protests and involving accusations of excessive force including an incident at the Brickyard Mall in May where police can be seen pulling two women from their car and throwing them to the ground in the parking lot and kneeling on one woman's neck. The incident is under investigation.
Arewa Karen Winters, the co-chair of the new working group who heads up "Justice for Families," cited that incident and a long list of other incidents that have troubled her.
"In the Brickyard Mall as they were dragged out of their car, their car window shattered and they were beaten by police," Winters said. "That was something that incensed me."
Chicago police said use of force complaints are down 14 percent from last year and down 34 percent since 2015. But Supt. David Brown said more still needs to be done.
"CPD has heard the loud cries demanding police reform," Brown said. "We have heard from people who are hurt, angry and afraid."
Many reforms have already been instituted as part of the consent decree, but police call those the baseline, not the ceiling, for changes.
"Our officers are already trained to de-escalate tense situations before the use of force becomes necessary," said CPD Deputy Supt. Barbara West. "The voices of Chicago deserve to be heard. And we are here to listen and we are willing to change."
"Reform is happening here in the city of Chicago," said 29th Ward Alderman Chris Taliaferro, head of Chicago City Council's Public Safety Committee and a former police officer. "It is happening here in the state of Illinois and it's happening across this great country that we live in. Reform must, it must happen."
Eric Wilkins, a community activist in Roseland, is a member of the working group. He advised on the consent decree, but said that hasn't seemed to make a difference in how police treat people in his community.
"Roseland is a plantation...meaning that the officers are overseers," Wilkins said. "Once it starts getting dark, you see a lot of cars pulled over for no reason, illegally, stop and frisk."
John Catanzara Jr., the head of the Fraternal Order of Police, said they are open to ideas for how to make policing better, but bristled at comments from one of the working group's co-chairs, who is part of a Black Lives Matters subgroup called Justice for Families.
"Her choice of a co-chair, Miss Winters, and calling our members psychopaths with guns - how are you going to get an impartial opinion going forward from that lady who's in charge of the committee?" Catanzara Jr. said.
Catanzara Jr., who is not part of the working group, said officers are getting fed up with the growing anti-police sentiment.
"I almost would caution any member: do not pursue anybody," he said. "You're basically risking your job, your livelihood and your freedom."
Earlier this year the city created an online dashboard with data on use of force incidents from the past five years at Chi.gov/UOF.
The working group had its first meeting last week and will hold virtually meetings every week for the next two months. Their recommendations will then be presented to a steering committee for review.
The members of the working group are:
-A'Shonti Tiesha McKinney, Crowned Elites LLC
-Aaron Gottlieb, Jane Addams College of Social Work, UIC
-Amika Tendaji, Ujimaa Medics & Black Lives Matter
-Arewa Karen Winters, Justice for Families, The 411 Movement for Pierre Loury
-Chris Taliaferro, Alderman of the 29th Ward, Chairman of the Public Safety Committee
-Cleopatra Watson, United Pullman
-Craig B. Futterman, University of Chicago Law School
-Dr. Waltrina Middleton, Community Renewal Society
-Eric Wilkins, Communities United
-Erin Jones, Citizens Organization of Public Safety Standards
-Ernest Cato III, Chicago Police Department
-Father Larry Dowling, St. Agatha Parish, North Lawndale, CRS Member Church
-Israel Abdul, resident
-La'Rie Suttle, resident
-Mark Clements, Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Oppression, and Chicago Torture Justice Center
-Michael Harrington, Network 49
-Mylon Patton, resident
-Nicolette Rivera, resident & community advocate
-Rachel Murphy, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
-Rose Joshua, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Chicago Southside
-Sherilynn Asuoha, Emmaus
-Tanya Watkins, Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation (SOUL)
-William Nate Sanders, Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation (SOUL)