According to a new report issued by the Police Accountability Task Force, police in Chicago have “no regard for the sanctity of life when it comes to people of color,” confirming empirically what people in the community have known intuitively for decades.
The panel, established by Mayor Rahm Emanuel late last year, found that 74 percent of the hundreds of people shot by the nation’s third-largest police force in recent years were African-American, the Associated Press reports, even though only 33 percent of the city’s overall population is so.
“Reform is possible if there is a will and a commitment,” the report concluded—that commitment begins with acknowledging the department’s “sad history.”
The mayor acknowledged that the city must “honestly confront the past,” the Chicago Tribune reported Wednesday. However: “I don’t really think you need a task force to know we have racism in America, we have racism in Illinois or that there is racism that exists in the city of Chicago and obviously can be in our departments.”
Indeed, the panel comes to the same conclusion:
The linkage between racism and CPD did not just bubble up in the aftermath of the release of the McDonald video. Racism and maltreatment at the hands of the police have been consistent complaints from communities of color for decades. And there have been many significant flashpoints over the years—the killing of Fred Hampton (1960s), the Metcalfe hearings (1970s), federal court findings of a pattern and practice of discriminatory hiring (1970s), Jon Burge and his midnight crew (1970s to 1990s), widespread disorderly conduct arrests (1980s), the unconstitutional gang loitering ordinance (1990s), widespread use of investigatory stops and frisks (2000s) and other points. False arrests, coerced confessions and wrongful convictions are also a part of this history. Lives lost and countless more damaged. These events and others mark a long, sad history of death, false imprisonment, physical and verbal abuse and general discontent about police actions in neighborhoods of color.
“The question isn’t, ‘Do we have racism?’ We do,” Emanuel said. “The question is, ‘What are you going to do about it?’” To that end, he appointed Eddie Johnson the city’s new superintendent.