The Justice Department will take action later this week to oppose a pending consent decree that the city of Chicago agreed to during the Obama administration to reform its police department.
There are two public hearings later this month in Chicago at which the public can comment on a proposed consent decree that was filed in federal court in September, following more than a year of negotiations between the Illinois Attorney General's office, the City of Chicago and the Chicago Police Department.
The consent decree — which is a court order that is enforced by a federal judge — was agreed to in principle just a week before President Trump’s inauguration in January 2017. It came following a scathing Justice Department report finding extreme flaws in the Chicago Police Department.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement Monday that “Chicago’s agreement with the ACLU in late 2015 dramatically undercut proactive policing in the city and kicked off perhaps the greatest surge in murder ever suffered by a major American city, with homicides increasing more than 57 percent the very next year.”
“It is imperative that the city not repeat the mistakes of the past — the safety of Chicago depends on it. Accordingly, at the end of this week, the Justice Department will file a statement of interest opposing the proposed consent decree. It is critical that Chicago get this right,” Sessions said.
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The proposed consent decree, which calls for "wide-reaching reform of CPD's policies, practices, training, and accountability mechanisms,” was made public in July.
If approved, the consent decree would be enforced by U.S. District Court Judge Robert M. Dow Jr. It would have no expiration date and would be overseen by an independent monitor, who has yet to be appointed.
In April 2017, Sessions ordered a sweeping review of all police reforms reached under the department, including consent decrees reached under President Barack Obama that in many cases were aimed at reducing civil rights violations.
In an op-ed the same month, Sessions said his Justice Department will not sign any more consent decrees "for political expediency that will cost more lives by handcuffing the police instead of the criminals." Fighting violent crime has been a top priority for Sessions and the Trump administration.
Illinois officials said the final draft of the consent decree came following feedback from both police officers and the community.
"The consent decree is a detailed road map to reform that Chicagoans need and can be proud of," said Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan last month. "Its provisions follow the recommendations from the Justice Department and respond to the concerns of the community."
The Fraternal Order of Police criticized the consent decree at the time, and said it was a political reaction to the ongoing murder trial of Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke.
Van Dyke, who is white, was found guilty last week of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm in the October 2014 shooting death of black teen Laquan McDonald.