A recent report by the U.S. Department of Justice that criticized the Chicago Police Department has the support of some retired cops when it comes to a lack of training at the police academy.
"The methods and curriculum have never changed and need to be updated," said Richard Wooten, who retired in 2015 as a police officer. "I joined the Chicago Police Department in 1993 and went through the same training at the academy that recruits are receiving today."
The 51-year-old founder and executive director of the nonprofit Gathering Point Community Council said it would be good if the police department incorporated community feedback with training.
"Why not hear from residents directly about how to best interact with their community? A course on cultural awareness is needed at the academy to better educate officers about all parts of the city," added Wooten.
The DOJ's recently released a 164-page report that, after a 13-month investigation, concluded that the Chicago Police Department maintains a pattern and practice of abusive treatment toward many of the city's residents.
The report also concluded that the police department's Education and Training Academy, 1300 W. Jackson Blvd., uses outdated methods to train new officers.
"Our investigation revealed engrained deficiencies in the systems CPD [Chicago Police Department] uses to provide officers with supervision and training," the report stated. "CPD's inattention to training needs, including a longstanding failure to invest in the resources, facilities, staffing, and planning required to train a department of approximately 12,000 members, leaves officers underprepared to police effectively and lawfully."
Deputy Police Chief Keith Calloway, who runs the academy, was unavailable for comment, but Police Supt. Eddie Johnson responded to the report at a Jan. 13 news conference he attended with DOJ officials and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
"As superintendent, and for anyone who wears the CPD star, some of the findings in the report are difficult to read, and highlight the work we have yet to complete to restore trust between the Department and the communities it serves," Johnson said in a prepared statement.
"What the [report] findings say to me is that we need to do a much better job at mentoring, supporting and training our police officers," he said. "It's what they deserve for putting their lives on the line for us and what the city deserves when we ask for its trust."
Besides better training, the report also recommended that officers receive better supervision.
"Instead of encouraging the chain of command to instill proper policing tactics and respect or constitutional policing in CPD officers, CPD provides little incentive, or even opportunity, for supervisors to meaningfully guide and direct CPD officers," the report states. "CPD provides even less incentive for supervisors to hold officers accountable when they deviate from CPD policy and the law."
Deputy Mayor Andrea Zopp acknowledged training at the academy should be updated.
"We [the mayor and I] agree that we need to update and revise training. That's why training officers have been sent to New York and Los Angeles to observe their training as it pertains to excessive force," said Zopp.
Prior to the report being released this month, Zopp said changes at the academy were already underway.
"Plans are being made to increase the number of training officers; improve our community policing and provide more training to supervising officers," she said.
All new recruits must attend the police academy for six months before receiving 12 months of field training on patrol. Chicago police officers receive a starting salary of $48,078 before it increases to $72,510 18 months later. Zopp said an aggressive campaign to recruit more minorities to join the department began last year and the deadline to apply is Jan. 31.
Many black residents said the report revealed complaints they have made for years about the level of disrespect that many officers exhibit toward minorities.
"Maybe now people will believe us when we say our civil rights are violated daily by the Chicago police," said 49-year-old North Lawndale resident Monica Fields. "It does not matter to the police if you are a man or a woman. If you are black or Hispanic you can expect to be treated rudely."
Kerry May, 59, a retired police officer, said the academy did not offer any training in cultural diversity when he was there in 1986.
"Learning how to deal with different groups of people would be helpful to any officer on the street," said May, who retired in 2013. "That's one thing I wish I had received at the academy. I know the academy can't teach you everything because there are some things you have to learn for yourself."
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