Skip to main content

Community activists demand to be part of the Chicago police reform effort

Relatives of those killed in police shootings as well as community activists called on both Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan on Thursday to include them in Chicago police reform efforts, saying they feared their voices would be lost.

"We are asking for what is due to us," Tiffaney Boxley, whose son, Joshua Beal, was shot by police in 2016, said in a shaky voice at a news conference at City Hall. "It's important our voices be heard, that we have our say. Mayor Emanuel, his children are not affected. And Lisa Madigan, nor her family. It's us, the black and brown community that is being affected."

A scathing U.S. Department of Justice report in January concluded that for decades Chicago police have disproportionately targeted African-Americans and Hispanics for excessive use of force and other civil rights violations. The investigation found widespread failures, including the inability to properly train officers or hold them accountable for misconduct.

The investigation came in the wake of the court-ordered release in late 2015 of police dashboard camera video showing a white police officer shooting black teen Laquan McDonald 16 times. Officer Jason Van Dyke faces first-degree murder charges.

The news conference outside Emanuel's office was the first time that the victims' families, who are plaintiffs in a pending federal lawsuit also seeking police reform, have spoken out since the process was upended this summer.

Emanuel at first embraced pursuing a consent decree — a court agreement for police reforms enforced by a federal judge — but after tepid interest by the Trump administrative in such a move, he backed off the commitment to court oversight. Then late last month, he agreed to a consent decree after Madigan sued the city to force the action.

Black Lives Matter Chicago member Jonathan Projanksy said the plaintiffs would like Madigan to meet with them to get their input.

"We hope the attorney general would see the importance of ... making sure those most affected are a part of the decision-making process," he told a reporter after the news conference.

In an emailed statement Thursday, Madigan said she has been in contact with attorneys representing the families and civil rights groups.

"We are already in the process of scheduling a time to meet with them," the statement read.

Attorney Sheila Bedi, who represents the families and community organizations who filed the lawsuit, confirmed that a meeting was being scheduled but also said her clients are "not merely interested in an another meeting or listening session."

"Instead their aim is to negotiate with the Attorney General and the City for the purposes of developing a resolution to CPD's rampant violence and dysfunction," Bedi said in the statement.

The city didn't immediately respond.

Thursday's news conference included activists from all over the city. While their distrust was evident, those gathered said they remained committed to helping fix the department.

"Right now it seems they are trying to cut us out," said Arewa Karen Winters, an aunt of Pierre Loury, a 16-year-old boy who was fatally shot by police in 2016. "We just felt kinda slighted that she turned around and she filed her lawsuit and there is the mayor behind her. At the end of the day, we all really want the same thing. We want a better police department."

Posted in In the News