Letters

Rep. Ford and Sen. Lightford on policing and pro-black policy change

Opinion

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LETTERS

It is my belief the Chicago Police Department is beyond repair. If true reforms do not happen right away, we need to eliminate our current system. We need to replace our current system of how we handle public safety and the many issues faced by our communities.

Calls for defunding the police in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis have rung out from coast to coast. If the Chicago Police Department implements real reforms, it will be more responsive to our communities, especially black communities and other taxpayers.

Holding police truly accountable for their actions IS showing support for our police, as recently stated by our Chicago Police Commissioner David Brown.

This is not about individual police officers or bad apples. This is about a system that is inherently flawed. Other professionals should be funded to deal with issues that police are called for now but are not trained to handle, often resulting in the killing of black men and women.

Examples include crisis intervention for mental health issues; domestic issues; diversion to drug treatment; prevention of guns getting to our streets in the first place; social services and housing for those experiencing homelessness; and so many other issues.

We also know the system is flawed and is a waste of taxpayer dollars. In the last 10 years of lawsuit payouts involving the Chicago Police Department amounts to $524 million, according to CBS2 Chicago. In 2018, the figure was $97.8 million.

The city's 2020 budget set aside $153 million for legal settlements. The top three reasons for the lawsuits were excessive force, reversed convictions and false arrests.

What about the consent decree – won't that solve the problem? There are many good suggestions in the consent decree, but there is one huge problem.

"In the aftermath of the 2014 Laquan McDonald murder, the city negotiated a consent decree with the Illinois attorney general for a federal judge to oversee the operations of the Chicago Police Department. Buried on Page 214 is the provision that "Nothing in the Consent Decree is intended to … impair or conflict with the collective bargaining rights" of employees of the Chicago Police Department," according to commentary in the Chicago Tribune earlier this month by Ed Bachrach and Austin Berg

I want to see if the Chicago Police Department really wants a system that also protects police officers, provides them excellent and ongoing training with input from the communities they serve, and makes them proud to be a member of the Chicago Police Department to improve safety in our communities.

I believe the Chicago Police Department and the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) have a choice. True reforms can be put in place or the Chicago Police Department should be defunded and replaced by a different system.

So this is a call for the Chicago Police Department and the FOP to join to make substantial reforms and be at the table. As long as there are objections to reforms, we will not move forward, and we will continue to see more videos of black men and women being killed by police in Chicago.

The time for real change is now.

— State Rep. La Shawn K. Ford represents much of Austin in the Illinois House of Representatives.

As I made my way to Cicero and Monroe on Thursday, I saw block after block of boarded up store fronts and empty lots and buildings in disrepair.

Then, it dawned on me that parts of the West and South Sides of Chicago have looked like this since I could remember — destroyed and abandoned. When I arrived, the area was surrounded by local residents who, quite frankly, were not interested in yet another spectacle in their neighborhood filled with empty promises and photo opportunities. And I agree with them.

As mothers cried out about the children they lost to gun violence and others screamed about the lack of opportunity, Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx reminded us that those of us who are successful are not exceptions, and that we are only seen as such because we are expected to fail.

That was the first of four days of action hosted by the Joint Caucus of Black Elected Officials. On the South Side, people gathered in frustration with elected officials. Their needs are not being met either, as other areas receive what they need and more. I hear them and I am frustrated with them.

In the South Suburbs, we heard stories from local business owners who have to rebuild after the looting that took place. Attorney General Kwame Raoul brought a message of no longer hesitating to be unapologetically Black as he had done in the past.

In the Western Suburbs, local officials discussed disinvestment, the need for better healthcare and education. They asked for help in making their communities a better place. Those four days in those four locations were a hard reminder that we, the Black Caucus, have been tirelessly fighting for the wellbeing of our communities. And still, their needs have not been met.

We have not failed.

To every person who needed to see buildings burning before doing something about racism, welcome to the movement. To everyone who felt uncomfortable speaking on race issues, welcome to the movement. To every corporation who made their first statement in support of Black lives, welcome to the movement. To every young person who took to the streets in protest for basic human rights, you are the movement.

Keep pushing.

In the coming days, weeks and months, we will draft bold legislation that addresses inequities in healthcare, education, procurement, job training, community redevelopment and everything in between.

I want our local residents to know that we did not disrupt their day for a show — we disrupted their day for change. We have commitments from the governor and the senate president to work with us.

However, it takes support from a majority of my colleagues to pass anything and I know how to count to the magical 30 and 60 needed to accomplish anything. We may be heading down an uncomfortable road for some of my colleagues, but racism is much more uncomfortable.

The people have spoken.

— Senator Kimberly A. Lightford is the Illinois Senate Majority Leader and represents the 4th District.

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