Chicago police reform: Former federal prosecutor, judge appointed to monitor reforms

CHICAGO (WLS) -- In a surprising one-two punch, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Dow has selected a pair of prominent criminal justice experts to oversee sweeping reforms at the Chicago Police Department.

On Friday afternoon, Dow named Maggie Hickey, a former federal prosecutor and Illinois executive inspector general, as independent monitor of Chicago's reform consent decree.

"We are humbled by the trust the city and state have placed in our team to do this important work on behalf of the people of Chicago," Hickey, who now works for Schiff Hardin LLP, said in a statement. "We know this is a pivotal time in our city's history and the Schiff Hardin-CNA team looks forward to working with our communities, CPD, the city and the state, Judge Coar, and Judge Dow, to make Chicago a safer city."

As the ABC7 I-Team first reported on Thursday, Hickey was one of two finalists for the post. The other finalist was former federal Judge David Coar, the I-Team had learned.

In a novel and unexpected decision, Judge Dow also announced Friday that Coar was being named as a "special master" to assist Hickey in administering the reform package. A "special master" is a subordinate official appointed by a judge to make sure that judicial orders are followed.

There were originally nine candidates for the independent monitor job. That group was cut to four last fall and then just two this year, Hickey and Coar.

"Over 100 years there have been six other attempts to do reform. This one, in my view, will stand the test of time," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Friday after learning of the decision.

The police reform decree became a federal case more than 18 months ago when Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a lawsuit against the city to impose the widespread CPD changes.

"I applaud Judge Dow on his decision making," said new Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, who was elected after Madigan retired from office.

In an interview with the I-Team General Raoul praised Hickey saying "she brings a skill set that will be important to the process and having a former federal judge, David Coar, high repute, to serve as special master is a great, unique combination."

Madigan's lawsuit was necessary after the Justice Department opted not to pursue a CPD consent decree that had begun under the Obama administration. Shortly before President Obama left office, his Justice Department team determined that Chicago police had engaged in a pattern and practice of civil rights violations.

When Donald Trump took office shortly thereafter, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions made it clear that they were not in favor of federal oversight of local police departments. The Chicago reform was considered dead in the water until Madigan filed a lawsuit on behalf of the state.

In an effort to arrive at a consensus candidate, one that both the state and the city would be comfortable with, Judge Dow convened a settlement conference on Wednesday to discuss which of the two finalists would be best suited for the job.

Apparently the result of that discussion was that they were both well-positioned to administer police reforms, and Judge Dow split the duties between them with Hickey getting the first chair and Coar reporting to her.

Legal experts familiar with the consent decree process say that it will take months for the newly-appointed team to put a workable plan in place -- and even longer than that for the Chicago public to see any effects on the street.

"We started implementing these reforms, the mayor and I, two years ago," said Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson. "You're not going to see many fundamental changes on the streets of Chicago, but what you will see is a more professional and dedicated police department."

"This is not on the police alone," Emanuel said. "If what we do is approach this as a reform and a way to make changes only on police, it's on all of us."

How will state and city officials and the federal court know when the police reform is complete?

"That's a difficult question to answer," Raoul admitted. "Everything law enforcement reform does not happen under the umbrella of the consent decree. There are things that happen outside of the process of the consent decree that contribute to the success of the consent decree."

The reform plan is considered a "soup-to-nuts" strategy that will transform all aspects of the police department, from recruiting and training, to patrol work and investigations, administration and community outreach.

Late Friday afternoon, the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police filed a motion in the decree case challenging several key components of the reform plan on behalf of rank-and-file CPD officers. A court hearing on that is set for next Wednesday morning.
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