The Chicago Police Department’s firing of a key official in charge of implementing court-ordered reforms “sent a demoralizing message” to police and other personnel who are committed to improving the department, according to a new consent decree report filed Thursday.
The biannual report, which evaluates CPD’s progress in meeting consent decree goals, came to familiar conclusions: The department has made progress in rewriting policies that allow it to comply with much of the initial stages of reforming itself, but it remains mired in problems that make it difficult for the policy changes to translate to meaningful reform on the streets.
Notably, the report criticized Chicago police Superintendent David Brown’s decision in August to fire Robert Boik, the department’s executive director of constitutional policing and reform, and it said the termination exacerbated problems with the department’s overall ability to retain staff necessary to meet training and data collection requirements.
“Continuity in leadership positions is crucial to reform taking root throughout the CPD,” the report said.
Boik had been in his role leading the department’s reform efforts for about a year and a half when he was fired without notice after he sent an email to Brown asking for a reversal of a decision to distribute his staff to patrol instead of officer training. Tina Skahill, who previously served as a deputy director in the office of the superintendent, is now in Boik’s role.
The report urged the city to increase staffing in several reform-related units, including a division that reviews use of force incidents by officers, a unit that develops policy and a division that oversees officer training. The department has faced criticism for moving personnel out of these divisions, creating backlogs and risking a failure to meet training requirements.
“We have significant concerns about the lack of consistent staffing and retention levels within the city and the CPD in areas crucial to the efficient implementation of the requirements of the consent decree,” the report said.
But the department has continued to make progress in writing policies, reaching at least some level of compliance with 78% of provisions reviewed. Most represent the early, policy-writing phase of the process.
“In addition to such policies, the city and the CPD must continue to train officers and personnel, provide meaningful supervision, and measure and demonstrate reforms are ingrained into daily practices through transparent data,” according to a news release from the independent monitoring team, led by former federal prosecutor Maggie Hickey.
CPD highlighted that it came into some compliance with more provisions than in previous monitoring periods, according to a statement from the department.
”This achievement is made possible by the dedication of the men and women who work day-in and day-out to implement systems and policies that will lead to our ultimate goal of cultural change within the CPD,” the statement said. “This is being done as we continue our work to grow community trust and improve public safety across Chicago.”
The Police Department also increased its mandatory annual in-service training for officers to 40 hours, up from 16 in 2018, the statement said. The training includes topics such as use of force, de-escalation and officer wellness.
But some critics disagreed that the department is improving, pointing out areas of regression.
Alexandra Block, senior supervising attorney at the ACLU of Illinois, said in a written statement that the report indicates CPD is failing to commit itself to transformational changes.
Block said preliminary compliance has barely progressed since last year, and the department even lost compliance levels with six paragraphs due to inadequate staffing in the unit that reviews incidents where police use force against community members.
“In short, the City still has not committed itself to overhauling the culture of violence, racism, and impunity in CPD,” Block said. “Instead, CPD continues to view the consent decree as an exercise in box-checking and public relations. Emblematic of this failure is the fact that in 2022, CPD had approximately twice as many personnel employed in communications and public relations as in its Office of Constitutional Policing and Reform.”
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