Under pressure from the public to reform its disciplinary procedures, and still reeling from the backlash of its handling of the Ray Rice domestic abuse case, the National Football League recently announced a new code of conduct policy. Now state Rep. LaShawn Ford (8th) is calling for the Chicago Police Department to do the same.
“In the wake of National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell’s announcement of the NFL’s code of conduct policy, Rep. La Shawn K. Ford, D-Chicago, is calling for City of Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy to follow suit and announce and explain the Chicago Police Department’s (CPD) current code of conduct policy to Chicago citizens,” according to a statement released by Ford’s office last month.
Currently, any resident of Chicago with access to a computer and the Internet can go on the City of Chicago’s website, click on a hyperlink and read Article V from the “Rules and Regulations of the Chicago Police Department Adopted and Published by the Police Board.”
Article V of CPD’s Rules and Regulations mentions police brutality as a general matter, stating that it is unlawful for Chicago police to engage “in any unjustified verbal or physical altercation with any person, while on or off duty. Rules 8 and 9 prohibit the use of excessive force by any member. The rules prohibit all brutality, and physical or verbal maltreatment of any citizen while on or off duty, including any unjustified altercation of any kind.”
Ford said the publicly available CPD rules, which date back to April 2010, are inadequate as a tool for preventing some of the more alarming instances of police abuse — from the case of Michael Brown in Ferguson to that of Eric Garner on Staten Island — which have received national attention.
“The current manual doesn’t speak to police misconduct or the police’s duty to the public,” Ford said in a recent interview. “There are no real rules to govern the way CPD should police in our neighborhoods. So it should be changed to be more specific on how police should behave and how they should police neighborhoods and handle situations when they come up.”
“You’d think that … when one cop sees misconduct by another cop, then the observing cop is just as responsible for his colleague’s criminal activity,” Ford said. “This handbook says nothing of that.”
The legislator also noted that, even if the CPD’s policy were adequate, not enough residents know about it or can easily understand and absorb its contents. That’s another area where CPD can take the NFL’s lead, he noted.
In the case of the NFL, the most significant change to its code of conduct is that “disciplinary decisions can no longer solely be made by Goodell, whose initial light punishment of domestic-batterer Ray Rice and seemingly ad-hoc methods of determining punishment have been roundly criticized,” according to Sam Laird, a senior sports reporter at the online news site Mashable. In addition to Goodell’s announcement, the NFL also released a summary of its policy in the form of a flowchart.
“Some citizens in Chicago have lost trust in their local police department’s policies that govern the actions of local police officers,” Ford said in his Dec. 12 statement.
“Announcing the current policy to the public will show citizens that CPD will hold their police officers accountable for their actions,” the statement read. “Citizens will know what to expect. Without knowing these expectations, police officers and citizens will never be on the same page.”