The resignation of Chicago Supt. Phil Cline is long overdue. Police abuse of citizens and attempts at fraternal protection of criminals in uniform have become standard in Chicago, especially so under Supt. Cline’s watch.
This escalation of abuse is the result of a department administration which is overly inclined to defend the conduct of its officers at any cost. In minority communities, we are well-acquainted with the abuses of police power, and the futility of looking to the department’s Office of Professional Standards (OPS) to weed out criminals with badges. To compound the tragedy, Chicago’s police abuses have again been broadcast to the world, damaging our city’s image and ability to compete for hosting world class events, such as the 2016 Olympics.
As discredited as Cline’s tenure will be viewed, with the trial for burglarizing special operations forces yet to come, the top cop’s departure does not address the need for a total department overhaul. The problem here is that we have a police force that has apparently lost focus of its primary mission: to protect and serve at the pleasure of the civilian citizenry. Chicago does not need another “cop’s cop” at the helm. The mayor would do well to accept the responsibility for what our police have become and open up the process for selecting the next superintendent with the department’s mission and citizens in mind.
With that said, as citizens who have worked to improve community police relations, we make the following recommendations and will diligently follow the selection processes on behalf of our communities:
1. The mayor and the new superintendent must fully embrace the establishment of an independent civilian police review board to investigate misconduct. This is the single most important change that can be made.
2. The selection process for the new superintendent should involve a genuine partnership with community leaders and organizations, and not simply with the mayor’s hand-picked police board. This is a time for cooperation, transparency, and mutual commitment to break down the “blue wall” between police and law-abiding citizens.
3. The strongest consideration for superintendent should first be given to candidates from outside of the department. The second option are candidates within the department; those who are likely capable of breaking up the “old boy” network and blue codes of silence in the face of misconduct.
4. Finally, the mayor and new superintendent must embrace without compromise a realignment of police beats. This would ensure that the most recent crime statistics will determine police redeployment to communities with the greatest need. Cline’s discredited special operations forces, unrestrained and running roughshod in crime-challenged communities, has done much harm to police/community relations. Crack Cop units, helpful in tactical designs, could never replace the long-term value of community-based beat officers who work in partnership with neighbors and stake holders to defeat the criminal element.
If the mayor is determined and committed to real transformation of Chicago police culture, he now has a unique opportunity to help create a true world-class police department for a world class city.
Rev. Dr. Marshall E. Hatch, New Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church, West Garfield
Rev. Ira Acree, Greater St. John Bible Church, Austin
Rev. Cy Fields, New Landmark Baptist Church, East Garfield
Co-Conveyors of The Leader’s Network