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Racial Bias Still Plagues Chicago Police: Task Force Report

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Racial bias in Chicago Police District (CPD) is very strong especially against African Americans, and it's getting worse, says a new task force report.

Blunt and honest, the 22-page report by the Police Accountability Task Force released on April 2016 points out that "racism and maltreatment at the hands of the police have been consistent complaints from communities of color" and that it has been going on for many years with Laquan McDonald's death as the most recent tipping point.

The 17-year-old juvenile with a 3-inch knife was shot 16 times including additional shots when he was already on the ground by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke. Initial reports suggested possible cover-up based on narrative inconsistencies among police officers and the 13-month-delay release of the dash-cam video capturing the shooting.

His case sparked multiple protests including the demand of resignations of police officers and the possible conviction of Van Dyke to life imprisonment.

About 74 percent of the 404 shootings in Chicago reported between 2008 and 2015 were directed against African Americans, a huge contrast from 14 percent of Hispanics and 8 percent of whites, said [PDF] the report. African Americans also received 76 percent of 1,886 taser discharges between 2012 and 2015, and 46 percent of 100,676 traffic stops in 2013.

Further, both Hispanics and African Americans were searched with or without permission for contraband more than thrice the whites even if these illegal items were often found among the latter.

Young African Americans were also not spared from racial profiling, based on the task force's survey among 1,200 Chicago residents between 16 years old and above.

About 70 percent of young African American males reported to have been stopped while in the car and 56 percent when they were on foot, and only a few of them were ever arrested, brought to the police station, or ticketed. They were also threatened more often than whites with weapons and subjected to physical force.

Creating more cracks on the public trust toward the CPD is the "unscrutinized" disciplinary process that the task force largely blamed on the collective bargaining agreement that were partial to the police officers.

Between 2011 and 2015, 40 percent of the complaints didn't have any affidavit, which meant they were never investigated fully. Thirty-seven percent were not sustained, and 15 percent were unfounded. Only 7 percent were regarded as sustained to cause a disciplinary action while 1 percent were exonerated.

The report ended with a detailed list of recommendations that "if adopted, will fundamentally change the way in which the public engages with the police, create more effective oversight and auditing, and create a transparent system of accountability and responsibility for all stakeholders."

However, to reform the system, the task force asserts that the Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel and the city council should pursue aggressive approaches within 90 to 180 days.

The mayor has since acknowledged racism in the police force and is open to the task force proposal but has yet to read the findings. 

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