NEAR WEST SIDE — In the wake of high-profile shooting deaths at the hands of police officers, West Side residents called for changes to Chicago Police Department policies at a meeting Tuesday night.
For two hours, West Side residents pitched strategies to improve the department at the Police Accountability Task Force’s first “listening tour” meeting at Mount Vernon Baptist Church on the Near West Side Tuesday night.
Absent protesters, the meeting was quiet, but residents who attended called for tangible changes to the city’s police culture. If real change is not implemented after the task force meetings, there “will be hell to tell the captain,” Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) said.Resident Pam Hunt addresses the Police Accountability Task Force Tuesday night at Mount Vernon Baptist Church.View Full Captiondnainfo/Stephanie Lulay
“If we don’t make serious reform steps with the Police Department, we may be looking at a state of anarchy. And that’s real,” he said after the meeting.
Weed out ‘racist officers’
Racism is at the root of Chicago’s police problem, resident Pamela Hunt said Tuesday night. The Police Department needs to to hire psychologists who can identify current racist officers and prevent new racist officers from joining the force, she said.
“If you are not fairly and wholeheartedly dealing with racism, you are not going to get to the bottom of this issue,” Hunt said. “It is systemic in the police force and the legal system.”
Another resident said the Police Department needs to fire officers who lie “like Jason Van Dyke,” the officer charged with murder in the shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.
“If Jason Van Dyke just went to jail, that would scare some of these police officers from gunning our innocent grandkids down,” the resident said.
More minority officers needed?
Former Austin District officer Otha “T.C.” McCoy said that while 90 percent of officers on the force are good cops, “10 percent need to be gone.”
“What you need is people who look like you to work in your community,” he told the crowd. “”What we need to do is to sit down and quit playing. … We’re having a meeting tonight, but we’re going to have a riot tomorrow.”
Lori Lightfoot, the Police Board president who leads the task fordce, said that race permeates the issues at hand. In “very segregated” Chicago, some police officers might not have grown up around other groups of people, she said, “yet we ask them to come together as a Police Department and go out and deal with citizens.”
“One of the things we will be looking at is what specific training do officers get to deal with that difference,” Lightfoot said.
After a recent push, the number of minorities applying to the force is at a historic high, she said.
“We’re taking some steps in the right direction,” she said.
The task force convened last year by Mayor Rahm Emanuel will hold three more public meetings in South Shore, Pilsen and Rogers Park. Citizens can also submit comments to the Chicago Police Accountability Task Force online.
The task force is charged with drawing up a list of recommendations for reforms within the Police Department to be submitted to Emanuel and City Council by March 31.